Prophet, Priest and King

Prophet, Priest and King

(Westminster Shorter Catechism Q:22-26)
(watch our video)
by Bob Burridge ©2011

We are surrounded by deceptions, delusions, and dangers.

We know there are deceptions all around us that call themselves different “versions of the truth.” If something is different than the way things really are, it is not a version of truth at all. It is a falsehood based upon misunderstandings, or maybe even intended lies. They can be very dangerous.

There are those who promise to solve our deepest fears and troubled conscience. We also know that deluded people offer solutions that will not help us. We are all imperfect. When we do wrong things the consequences and guilt do not just go away. There are no magical remedies, though many deceptive cures are offered to us every day. On the other hand, ignoring our guilt, or trying to adjust to it will not make it disappear. When people chase after restoration of their souls with rituals, rules, and good deeds, the haunting whispers of our conscience are not silenced for long.

There are also dangers that surround us. Self-serving people try to hurt others to get what they want. Some even get violent because they enjoy seeing others suffer.

Deep inside us, even in the lost and confused heart, we want these things that trouble us to be taken care of. We want someone who knows the truth to tell us about it. We want someone to make things right again when we have done wrong. We want someone who can keep us safe from those who want to hurt us.

That’s what Christianity is all about. It is about our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. He tells us the truth even when it is not what we want to hear. He can actually make us innocent from our guilt, deliver us from the wrong things we have done, and he can and will handle any enemy or obstacle that threatens us. We say he is the great Prophet, Priest, and King.

What Jesus Christ came to do is not well understood
in our biblically illiterate society.

He was not just a great teacher, martyr, or an example for us to follow. He came to do far more than the human mind can possibly imagine.

He was sent on a mission from God the Father to redeem his people. He told us eternal truths as the one who is the foundation of all that is really true. He provided all we need to be restored to fellowship with the one who created us. He takes away the weight of our guilt that makes us forget what we were created to be. He deals with those things that crush us, discourage and disable us, and tempt us to be dishonest with ourselves.

This is why he is called the Christ. The title “Christ” is from the New Testament Greek word Χριστος (Christos), which means “anointed one”. In God’s law, the prophets, priests and kings were anointed in a ceremony that set them apart for their office. The anointing demonstrated the authority God gave them to carry out their work. Jesus came to fulfill each of those offices for us in a special way, so he is the Anointed One. The Old Testament Hebrew word for anointed is משיח (Mashiakh), which is where we get the word Messiah.

Jesus the Messiah was miraculously born to Mary by the work of the Holy Spirit. That was when the 2nd Person of the Trinity took on a true human body and soul, but he did not inherit the guilt of Adam’s sin.

As both the Eternal God and a sinless man, he became, and always is, our perfect Prophet, Priest and King.

Today we don’t have prophets, priests and kings in the same way as before the 2nd century. So we do not always appreciate what those three offices mean. By learning about how Jesus Christ fulfills these roles, we can understand why God instituted these offices to begin with. They were part of God’s law to prepare us for what the Savior would be for us as his people.

We need someone who knows and tells us
the whole truth about what is most important.

Jesus Christ ministers to us as the Perfect Prophet.

In the time when God sent Prophets to his people, they were sent as truth tellers. Before the Bible was completed, God specially revealed his truths to the Prophets who were commissioned to tell others. They warned those who dared to attack God’s people, and who treated them as if they were not the chosen Covenant Nation. They told about the proper way to worship and the moral way of living. They told God’s truth to the people, and encouraged them with the hope of the Promised Messiah.

Now that God’s Bible is complete, there are no more prophets. There could not be, because our Bibles tell us all our Creator had to say for this era of history. Their purpose has been fulfilled and has passed into history.

The New Testament does not tell the churches to look for new Prophets as if more was yet to be specially revealed with equal authority as the Bible. Unlike the continuing offices of Elder and Deacon, there are no instructions about how to recognize people to fill the office of Prophet. The Bible is God’s prophetic word for us now. The Apostles prepared the early church for this transition in 2 Peter 1:19.

The Holy Spirit was sent in a special way by Jesus after his resurrection. He came to guide believers to understand and to trust in the truth that is in the Bible. Jesus said in John 16:13, “… when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; …”

Jesus was the one final and perfect prophet. He was God himself and at the same time he was the perfect man. He brought together the teaching of the Old Testament, and explained how he came to fulfill the ancient promises. He revealed God’s will to us by his Word, and gives us the Holy Spirit to guide us into its truth.

In Stephen’s defense before the council he said Jesus was the greater Prophet Moses promised. In Acts 7:37 Stephen said about Jesus, “This is that Moses who said to the children of Israel, ‘The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear.’

Hebrews 1:1-2 describes the prophetic mission of Jesus. It says, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;”

Jesus does not only tell us the truth. As God Eternal he is the very definition of truth. Truth is the way things are in the mind of God. He said directly in John 14:6, “… I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

Do you want to know God’s truth about things? In John 5:39 Jesus told us to search the Scriptures to learn about having eternal life. He used the writings of the Bible all through his ministry and told others to do the same. Jesus completed God’s revelation to us.

After the New Testament was finished, Jesus continues to speak to us all through Scripture. He is the greatest of all prophets, the one Moses said would come long after him. All of the Bible points to Jesus.

We know that all Jesus tells us in the Bible is the truth. Every principle he explains, every warning he gives, and every promise he made is true. To know the truth about everything that is really important, study all that Jesus said.

We also need someone who can really
remove our guilt and make us right with God.

Jesus Christ ministers to us as the Perfect Priest.

He came as the Lamb of God to suffer and die in our place paying the great debt we owe. He was the only one perfect enough to present himself to God on our behalf.

Like the office of Prophet, there are no Priests after the death of Jesus Christ. The Priests of the Old Testament made sacrifices and did cleansing rituals to show us how God would one day rescue his people from their sins by the promised Messiah as our Redeemer.

We do not need them anymore because the Great High Priest has come. He did what the ancient Priests of Israel only represented.

Jesus Christ offered himself as the one true sacrifice for all the sins of his people. He paid for your guilt in your place. He clothes you with his own righteousness so that you stand as holy in the eyes of God.

His priesthood is superior and eternal. Hebrews 7:26-28 says, “For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.”

He was a greater, more perfect temple and the great High Priest. That’s the message of Hebrews 9:11-12, “But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.”

The sacrifice he brought was not just of animals representing what he would do. It was his own perfect blood offered once for all to secure an eternal redemption. He made the payment of sin in full, once for all.

Jesus continues to make intercession for you who are his people. He speaks out to defend your innocence forever. The post-resurrection Scriptures know and recognize only one Mediator between God and man. In Romans 8:34 the Apostle Paul wrote that Jesus is “… even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.”

1 Timothy 2:5-6 says, “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.”

We need someone who can keep us safe
from all that threatens to hurt us.

Jesus Christ is our Perfect King.

God set up the world so that heads of nations would show the headship of God over his Kingdom. Humans who lead nations control armies. They influence laws being made, and therefore can manipulate the economy and the people under their authority.

Tragically, every human leader is flawed. There are things they overlook or fail to understand perfectly. Some rule for self-gain and power to do things their own way. No King, President, Dictator or Prime Minister can rule perfectly, or keep his people completely safe forever. Leaders and nations come and go. Economies grow, tumble, recover, and crumble.

No leader can keep natural disasters from destroying what he wants to build. They cannot keep enemies from hurting their people and attacking their cities. They cannot keep poisonous ideas from polluting the morals and goals of their nation.

For every important truth God tells us, Satan has his lies to confuse us. He even works to convince us creatures that God’s Kingdom is not the best idea.

Evil pretends that it is a Kingdom too, but its king cannot really do what he promises. It is a false kingdom where people think they can be captains of their own souls. They imagined that they, not God, could determine their future. They evaluate the rightness or wrongness of things by what would most please themselves, not by what would most please the Lord of Creation. They imagine they could be happier doing what they want instead of what God commands.

Of course God never really lost his absolute Kingship in the fall of Satan or in the fall of man. He only took away our awareness of his Sovereignty. As fallen creatures we are deceived about who controls everything.

Satan and sinners are always under the direct lordship of the Sovereign God. Neither the Devil, nor his followers, are able to do anything without the direct permission of God. Our Creator directs everything, even their rebellion. It all ultimately promotes his own glory and purpose.

We all know that verse in Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

God is restoring the display of his Sovereign Kingship as he gathers his people into his church through faith in Jesus Christ, and as he lets the evil in men’s hearts destroy them and all they think they’ve accomplished.

Jesus Christ as God forever rules over all things perfectly to complete his perfect plan. No enemy can out-smart him, out-maneuver him, overcome him, or in anyway change his plans. No disaster comes along that he does not know about in advance and control completely. Nothing of his can ever be destroyed if God wants it to remain, and nothing he determines to end can continue for a nano-second beyond that pre-determined moment.

Through the hardest of times, in the most seemingly impossible situations that come along, our king gives us comfort and assurance. Our duty as his people is to trust in him and to abandon all our doubts about his ways and promises.

That is why we say that Jesus is the Perfect King.

When Luke started his report to Theophilus about the history of the Apostles, he had these comforting ministries of Jesus Christ in mind. In Acts 1:1-3 Luke said, “The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.”

Jesus was the perfect Prophet, Priest and King.

As the Perfect Prophet, Jesus taught the truth we need to know. The lies are easy to spot when we know God’s word well, when we know Jesus well. We do not need to look for comfort in the uncertain and always changing theories of lost men. What we learn in our Bibles gives us absolutely reliable principles to live by, and unchangeable facts upon which to build our lives with confidence. His word is there to guide all who read and trust what he said.

As the Perfect Priest, Jesus suffered, died and presented himself alive for us. He satisfied the demands of our guilt to make his people right with God. The cause of death was taken away. The sin that separated us from our Creator was paid for. He infallibly makes us right with God, not just for a few emotional moments, but forever. Nothing can ever condemn the redeemed. Nothing can ever separate us from fellowship with God.

As the Perfect King, Jesus taught constantly about God’s Kingship over all things. He rules over all he made, and over the nation of the redeemed in particular. He watches over us and directs everything that happens every moment of every day. In each situation we need to respond with trust in how he says we should deal with it. Even when things become overwhelmingly hard for us, Jesus is absolutely in control and shows us the way to comfort and security.

These words of our Prophet, Priest and King promise comfort. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (KJV)

Are there things that worry you? trouble you?
eat away at your conscience?

Come to the Savior and he will give you rest.

Do not count on your comfortable bed alone to give you a good night’s sleep, if you have not rested in the arms of the only one who can give you peace through the night.

Do not expect your medicines or doctors to heal all that discomforts and threatens you by themselves, if you do not come in trusting and obedient prayer to the Great Physician.

Do not put your confidence in armies, technology, wise investment brokers, gold, or education, if you are not looking for security above all else in the King of all kings.

Psalm 20:7 shows us where our trust needs to be, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we will remember the name of the LORD our God.”

The Lord our God is none other than Jesus Christ, our perfect Prophet, Priest, and King.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism summarizes the work and these offices of Jesus Christ in questions 22 through 26.

Question 22. How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?
Answer. Christ, the Son of God, became man, by taking to himself a true body, and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and born of her, yet without sin.

Question 23. What offices doth Christ execute as our Redeemer?
Answer. Christ, as our Redeemer, executeth the offices of a Prophet. of a Priest, and of a King, both in his estate of humiliation and exaltation.

Question 24. How doth Christ execute the office of a Prophet?
Answer. Christ executeth the office of a Prophet, in revealing to us by his Word and Spirit, the will of God for our salvation.

Question 25. How doth Christ execute the office of a Priest?
Answer. Christ executeth the office of a Priest, in his once offering up of himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, and reconcile us to God, and in making continual intercession for us.

Question 26. How doth Christ execute the office of a King?
Answer. Christ executeth the office of a King, in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies.

(The Bible quotations in this article are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

One Way to Redemption

One Way to Redemption

(Westminster Shorter Catechsim Q: 21)
(watch our video)
by Bob Burridge ©2011

There are often many different ways to solve a problem. We look over our options, then try to pick the solution that seems best.

Sometimes the problem is as simple as what you’re going to have for supper, or as complicated as deciding who will be your partner for the rest of your life. We make decisions about the best way to decorate a room, what gift is best to buy for a friend, or what movie or TV show would be the best to watch on a quiet evening. Most of the time with matters like these we chose between different options.

In contrast with these common issues, the biggest problem in life has only one solution, just one possible remedy.

In our last study we looked at questions 17-20 of our Shorter Catechism. It was about our fall into sin and the misery of being alienated from God by our guilt. That’s the problem: How can we get rid of that moral barrier between us and our Creator?

Since we are all corrupted by the fall of humanity through Adam, we cannot see things as they really are, we cannot overcome our selfish motives, and we tend to defend and excuse the things we want to do rather than to follow God’s ways. Because of our own imperfections, we cannot do anything to qualify ourselves for glory, or to get rid of our past guilt. One-by-one the Bible rules out every solution but one.

Question 20 of the Catechism explains the Bible’s solution to the problem of our guilt,

God, having out of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace, to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer.

So the 21st Question in the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, “Who is the Redeemer of God’s elect?”

The answer pulls together what the Bible says about this one way of redemption:

The only Redeemer of God’s elect is the Lord Jesus Christ, who being the eternal Son of God became man, and so was, and continueth to be, God and man, in two distinct natures, and one person forever.

In John 14, Jesus told his disciples that he was going to prepare a place for them in heaven. Thomas asked how he could know the way to get where Jesus was going. In verse 6 Jesus answered saying, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

There is only one redemption and only one Redeemer. No other way is possible, and no other way is needed. There is only one way to deal with your personal struggles and feelings of guilt. It goes beyond just getting into heaven someday. Our Redeemer did not just come to give us birth. He came to make us alive, to make us able to live every day with confidence in his care.

Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messiah

Immediately after the fall in Eden, God made a promise. In the presence of our parents, Adam and Eve, he said to the Serpent in Genesis 3:15, “And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.”

This Promised One, the child of a woman, would destroy Satan and put an end to his evil. He would be the one set aside for that special deliverance. The Bible calls him “Messiah”, which means the “Anointed One”. The Greek word that means that is Christos (Χριστος) from which we get the word, “Christ”.

We live in the history that flows from that promise. Today we know that Jesus was that Messiah. He came to deal with Satan and our guilt.

The promise was made in Eden. It was fulfilled on the Cross at Mount Calvary. It is applied by God’s grace to unworthy sinners loved eternally for God’s own reasons.

It is amazing to think about what God tells us in his word about his solution to our otherwise unsolvable problem. His children were chosen by his eternal love, redeemed by the work of Jesus the Promised One, and therefor cannot ever be lost, or separated from his care again. God holds his loved ones by the power of his own word. God kept his promise. He always does.

It is good to know your Savior, so you can understand how secure you are in him, and so you can worship him and live for his glory throughout every day. There is a lot of confusion about who Jesus is, and about what it means that he is your Redeemer. The Catechism summarizes what God has revealed in his word.

It tells us that Jesus is the eternal Son of God

That does not mean there was a time when he was born in heaven. God the Father was never without him. He didn’t become God the Son as if he was born into the Trinity. The main idea of sonship in the Bible is that a child carries on the work of the father and is like him in his qualities. God’s children are to live for him and are to be like him in our limited way. With Jesus, as God the Son, that relationship is perfect.

Jesus came to carry out the plan to Redeem those the Father gave him. Jesus said in John 5:30, ” I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.”

This does not mean there is a different desire in God the Father than in God the Son. The will of the entire Triune God is eternally the same. It means that the Son does not come to do something independent of the Trinity. He always carries out that work of Redemption as God the Father desires it.

In John 6:37 Jesus said, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.”

All through eternity, God the Son is that person of the Trinity who carries out the Divine plans. As a true and perfect Son, Jesus is like the Father in all his attributes. He is the same kind of eternal being, infinite and unchangeable in all his qualities.

He was not created by the Father. He took part in the creation of all things, nothing excepted. John 1:3 says about Jesus, “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.”

As God the Son, Jesus is and always has been truly and fully God. All members of the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, share the same attributes, essence, intelligence, will, and power.

Jesus is eternally God the Son. Not only was he forever an inseparable person of the Trinity, he will never lose that element of what he is. He is your Redeemer forever and without fail.

How can God, the one offended by sin, remove the barrier that separates you from him? God always, from all eternity, had a perfect solution for that problem.

The eternal Son of God became man.

In his love for his people, he took on a fully human nature: body and soul. That was the only way God’s justice could be satisfied and the problem of sin solved.

In Philippians 2:7-8 God tells about this work of Jesus to redeem you. There it says, “but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”

He was really human. He didn’t just take on the illusion of humanity. As a real human he died in place of each of his spiritual children. If you are one of those who trust in him, you can rest in the fact that he took on what you deserve, and gives you what only he deserves. This is what makes the Gospel unique from all other forms of religion. Nobody can do or believe anything to solve the problem of sin and its guilt on his own. There is just one possible way. Jesus is that one way.

This is what encourages us. It is our confidence and certain hope. It is what motivates us to want to live his way every day. It is what stirs us to worship him. As truly God and truly man, Jesus is able to remove your guilt and comfort you daily.

Jesus was not God for just a brief period of time. He was not man for awhile, then became God again.

Jesus is forever one person: God and man in two distinct natures.

He draws from all the abilities of his God nature, while he possesses all the qualities of being human. The only exception is that as a man he did not inherit sin from Adam like the rest of us.

As a believer in is work of grace, Jesus is your Redeemer. He loved you eternally. He knows your heart, died in your place, and promises to keep you close to him forever.

But what does it mean to redeem something or someone?

It means to transfer ownership to the one paying the price demanded.

I remember how we used to redeem glass soda bottles as kids. This was a regular thing we did on Pomona Place in South Buffalo. Back in the 50’s glass bottles were recycled. Recycling is nothing new. To make sure your returned the empty bottles you paid a deposit when you bought your drink. It was 2¢ for a small soda bottle, and I think 5¢ for the larger quart bottles. We would go door-to-door with our wagons offering to get rid of the bottles for people. Then we would go to the store to redeem them for the cash we used to get gum or a Popsicle.

Sometimes, we redeem things from garage sales too. People want to get rid of things they don’t use anymore. Others are glad to get them. At most garage sales a used book can be redeemed for a few pennies. Furniture for a few dollars. We pay that little price and it becomes ours.

Sometimes our soda bottles would get broken and we would lose a few pennies worth. Things at garage sales might turn out to be a disappointment, so we lose the quarter or dollar we spent to make them ours. When things are redeemed for such a low price we adjust and don’t worry about it.

However, what is your soul worth to God? How much did it cost him to redeem you? Our minds cannot quite take in such a high price. Our hearts are broken to think of the cost. Jesus, our eternal God and humble Savior, who deserved only glory and eternal peace, took up what we fallen sinner deserve. He paid for our redemption by enduring unimaginable agony, not just physical suffering, but the horrors of eternal condemnation.

The Redeemer who paid such a high price for you will never surrender his possession. He will keep you, and treasure you as his own forever.

But, oh — how some still carry around their load of guilt.

As believer we need to rest in his promise that we have a Redeemer who cares and cannot fail. There is only this one way. Nothing else will do. Nothing else is needed.

When you sense the guilt of your own sins, God tells you what to do. First you need to admit it to yourself and to God. The word used for “confess” in the Bible basically means to admit something as true, to agree with God about it. Then you need to repent of it. Repentance more than just a change of mind about being a sinner. It means understanding how deeply your thoughts and behaviors offend God. Next you come to Jesus Christ trusting that his redemption of you is all you need. That is the essence of what we call “saving faith”. It is trusting that he paid for your guilt in full.

Those redeemed by grace are changed. They continue to come to Christ when they sin. They continue to rest in his assurance of deliverance from condemnation when they sin. They also want very sincerely to overcome their sins to honor their Redeemer.

When you sin, and after you have confessed it, repented of it, and come to Christ for forgiveness, you must stand up against it. Do not make a way for it to happen again if possible. Remove the temptations and opportunities to do it again. To find the power for that, we rely on the living Redeemer who is eternally God, and is all we need.

Through it all, in our confession, repentance, faith, and sanctification, we know it is all undeserved and a gift of grace alone. So we give all the glory to God alone

We have a Redeemer who cannot fail to redeem us. He loves us with his own eternal perfect love. He paid the price of the debt we could never settle. As those redeemed, we become his, and realize that we are no longer our own.

As the Heidelberg Catechism says in it’s first question,

” … I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil. He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation. Therefore, by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for Him.”

The weight of guilt is lifted, and replaced with a yearning to be holy to honor your Savior. Instead of getting down over our sins, we get up and get going for the glory of our King.

(The Bible quotations in this article are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

Misery: Its Cause and Cure

Misery: Its Cause and Cure

Video presentation of this lesson
(Westminster Shorter Catechism Q:17-20)
by Bob Burridge ©2011

All our human misery began in a beautiful place. It wasn’t in a slum or hostile environment. It was in the perfect garden made by God called Eden. There were no bad neighbors, no troubled up-bringings to overcome. There were no addictions, diseases, or disasters to contend with. What’s more, at that time no sin had yet been credited to any human.

With all that going for them, Adam and Eve fell to the temptation that effected all human history. You would think that they would have said “No” to anything God said would be bad for them. But that’s not the way things went.

We were there too, not as individuals, but as a race of humans represented in Adam. When he did what God had forbidden, moral guilt and all the corruption that came from it alienated the whole human race from its Creator.

The misery that marks every page of history, the tragedies that fill our daily news, and the sorrows we face in our own lives all go back to that moment.

Our Shorter Catechism in the answer to question 17 summarizes the result of that fall into sin.

“The fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery.”

People see and experience misery. They ask, “Why?”

Why would Adam and Eve sin when everything was so perfect for them?
Why would God make it possible for sin to take place in his creation?
Why were we represented by Adam so that his guilt passed on to us all?
Why doesn’t God just stop it all right now?

Even though people don’t have all the facts, they tend to make up theories anyway. The guesses are as numerous as the questions. Some say that everything must have just evolved the way it did on its own. To them, what we call evil and tragedy are simply part of the way things move forward in the universe providing for the survival of the fittest. Others try to deceive themselves by denying the way things are. They believe that evil, sickness, and misery are all just illusions of our undisciplined minds. Then there are those who directly deny these plain teachings of Scripture. They say we didn’t all fall in Adam. We are only held responsible for our own actions, and if given the chance we can all still do good and redeem ourselves. Still others believe that it must be beyond God’s power to keep sin out, or to control evil desires. They see him as unable to do anything about the situation.

The problem with these creative theories is that there are no facts to back them up. They all assume things opposite to what God himself tells us in his word.

To overcome misery, we first need to know what we are dealing with. God made a universe he knew would battle with sin and its tragic results. He had a purpose in allowing things to happen as they did. The present situation is not this way by chance, choice, or chaos.

When we face misery in our lives, the little miseries as well as the big ones, we need to remember the larger purpose, and how we are each a part of it.

The facts which are the results of sin are obvious. They are unavoidably there all around us all the time. All of us face sickness, and someday we will all die. There has always been crime and evil in the world. We each sometimes do things we know we shouldn’t, and neglect doing all we should. There are times when we enjoy God’s care and gifts, but fail to give proper thanks to him.

All this is not there because of a bad environment, or because of the influence of bad people. We are all infected with the congenital disease of sin. This is explained in many portions of Scripture. It is summarized well In Romans chapter 5.

Romans 5:12, “… through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men …”
Romans 5:17, “… if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one …”
Romans 5:18, “… through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation …”
Romans 5:19, “… by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners …”

So just how bad is this moral and spiritual disease?

The answer to Catechism Question 18 summarizes the teachings of the Bible.
“The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consists in the guilt of Adam’s first sin, the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whole nature which is commonly called original sin; together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it.”

We are guilty by our inheritance from Adam who represented us. That is what Romans 5 and other passages tell us. We also lack righteousness ourselves. By our natural birth we fail to live morally and perfectly God-centered lives. We are separated from the Almighty by a very real barrier of guilt which we are not able to remove ourselves.

The corruption of that fall into sin leaves us totally unable to do good. Romans 3:10-12 is that classic passage about the extent of our corruption. There it says, “As it is written: ‘There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.’ ”

Paul was quoting from God’s written word in Psalm 14:1-3.

We need to know what things are really “good”.

People believe they are doing good things, things that seem good to them. God says otherwise.

We often think of “good” in terms of how it benefits us with pleasure and comforts. We all agree that it is a good thing to enjoy the wonders of God’s creation and provisions for us. We are truly happy to see the sick taken care of, the lonely visited, the grieving comforted, and the hungry get fed. However, God made all things to be done for his glory, not just for the comfort of his creatures.

When we do good without humbly giving God all the glory through Christ, we fail to do what makes a deed to be truly “good”. To do things for any other motive deprives the Creator of his proper praise. Living for his glory is the whole purpose of his creation. If anything else is the center of our lives, we miss the fullness of God’s blessings. (You might wish to look back at our study of Catechism Question #1.)

In Christ we have a whole new measurement of what things are “good.” We might not have the financial means to endow a new wing of a hospital, but we can praise God for moving those who can do that. They might fail to honor the Creator themselves. They may get their names on a plaque in the lobby, but the names of those who glorify God in all things are written down in heaven.

You do the greatest good with simple praises to God for his handiwork in nature, for his comfort to troubled hearts, for his redemption of sinners, and his restraint of evil.

However, in our natural fallen condition, we are unable to truly thank God as we should. It is not really good if the things we do are for personal glory, to advance our standing among men, or to sooth our troubled conscience.

In our fallen condition, every human experiences
the miseries of sin’s consequences.

The 19th Catechism question asks: “What is the misery of that estate whereinto man fell?”

The answer brings together what the Bible says from beginning to end:

“All mankind by their fall lost communion with God, are under his wrath and curse, and so made liable to all the miseries in this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell forever.”

There are no exceptions except the person of Jesus Christ. He alone was specially conceived and did not inherit the corruption that came from Adam’s sin. All the rest of us are born in this lost condition.

Aside from God’s redeeming grace, no one has true communion with the one true God. Of course God is always present everywhere we are. He is everywhere, even in the places frequented by unbelievers. However, even there, they are isolated from fellowship with him by that barrier of real moral guilt.

God built a principle of justice into his creation. It is there to show this eternal attribute of the Creator. That principle says we deserve our isolation from him. We are offensive to him at our conception. Without the substitute of our Savior who paid the debt for his children, we are rightly condemned to God’s just wrath and punishment.

Those of this lost world take justice and moral responsibility lightly. They have no absolute standard for justice. Everything is relative to what benefits them or the community. They live only by what seems to benefit them at the moment. God’s standard for good is what promotes his glory.

This is why justice is so confused in our fallen cultures. People see justice as a way to correct bad behavior so that the criminal is rehabilitated and morally repaired. God’s justice is not primarily to rehabilitate. That is just a side benefit of justice. Justice is not here simply to teach us a lesson. It is to pay a debt to the offended. It is both restitution to the victim for the damage done, and punishment to the one who committed the crime.

Justice is not satisfied by trying to motivate criminals to do better the next time. It demands specific penalties for violating absolute moral principles.

Part of God’s justice is the misery sin deserves and brings into the human race. It is deserved because offending the Creator is the greatest crime in the universe. One of the evidences of the corruption of sin in the human soul is the common attitude about this matter of what is just.

If you asked people what crimes are the greatest, they would list things like; murder, terrorism, sexual assault, and armed robberies. As horrible as those things are, the greatest crime is to offend our Creator. It might be only in our thoughts or attitudes, but it goes against all we were created and are commanded to be.

Most people think that failing to take worship seriously, or not trusting the Bible are minor offenses that do not matter much. God says that things like those matter the most.

Because of the fall into sin, we live in a world plagued by misery. There are the daily pains, terrors, fears, and agonies that close in on use without relief. There is the certainty of death that comes to every person, often unexpectedly. There is that promise of eternal torment in what the Bible calls Hell. This is what we all deserve.

The price we owe for our sins against God is so great, that we finite creatures can never pay it off. We do not have the means for repairing such infinitely wicked offenses. All the sufferings for all eternity still never remove the guilt or satisfy the debt we owe.

Question 20 turns to the only possible remedy.

God did not leave lost mankind forever to suffer the miserable consequences of that first sin. The answer to Question 20 is,

“God, having out of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace, to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer.”

As you read through Romans 5, you see that the work of Jesus Christ as Savior is contrasted with our guilt. Though we deserve misery both now and forever, he paid for that misery in our place. All who trust in that promise are credited with Christ’s own righteousness, a blessing undeserved, but freely given by God’s grace alone. In Romans 6:23 Paul says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

This is a whole different approach than what is offered my most religious movements today. The facts of Scripture are plain for those who take them for what they say. God elects some undeserving sinner to eternal life. Nothing they did is the cause of it. It was God’s grace alone.

This is hard for the fallen heart to understand, much less to accept. People come up with creative theories to explain it away. They assume they should get credit for their faith, or for the choices they make. It is as if somehow they think they were better than others and earned their place in glory by their acts or decisions. But there it is, clearly stated in many places in God’s word. It is nothing we do that earns God’s redeeming grace.

In Ephesians 1:3-6 the same Apostle summarizes what God says is true. There he writes, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.”

It is wrong to be so arrogant to believe that “you trusted in Christ while others didn’t”. To take credit for your faith or choice is to steal away God’s glory. If he did not enliven your heart and implant faith, you would not have trusted in him, or called upon him with confidence in what he has said and done.

There is a remedy for our misery.

It is not found by avoiding the results of Eden’s sin. You cannot ensure that nothing bad will happen to you, that no natural disaster will happen, that you’ll never get sick, be taken advantage of, or that you will be able to avoid death. These things happen as the just results of Adam’s and your own sins.

The remedy is found in the promise and work of God. Jesus paid the debt of sin for all his people on the Cross of Calvary. By his good pleasure alone he marked out certain ones eternally before creation itself, that they would be his adopted and much loved child forever.

While you go through the agony of sin’s consequences in this yet imperfect world, your Good Shepherd, your Loving Savior, is there to strengthen and comfort you. Through sickness, tragedy, disasters, and even through the passage of death itself, you are delivered by the substitution Jesus made for you 2000 years ago. Even the pains of Hell and the terror of eternal isolation from God’s fellowship are paid for in full by the Savior for all who put their trust in him alone.

There’s an old saying, “Misery loves company.” Sometimes we here conversations where everybody tries to out-do one another with their pains. They tell story after story about how bad things are for them. They go away feeling that their situation cannot be too bad since everybody else has problems too. However, after they have shared all their problems and faults, they still go home to face the miseries that are very real in their own lives.

Well run support groups can be very helpful when we go through hard times. We sometimes can learn from others and can be encouraged by them. But the companionship of others who suffer like us, is no real deliverance from the problem itself. The only company that actually delivers is the fellowship of our Savior. He is the one who makes the help of others work for us. Without his blessing, enablement, and care the most skilled and compassionate professionals or friends will not be encouraging to us at all. Come to him in prayer when the miseries come along. Rest in his promises. Be confident in his absolute power and unfailing love.

We have great treasure here, a remedy that cures the worse disease and misery of all. To keep it to ourselves, or to ignore it at any point during the course of our day is criminal. To bring this cure to others is the greatest of joys, and is part of that deliverance Christ offers.

There was a story I reported awhile back during one of our Internet webcasts. Penn Fraser Jillette is a well known magician. He is part of the magic act “Penn and Teller”. He is also an outspoken atheist. He was once handed a Gideon Bible by a man who then explained the gospel to him. The atheist didn’t become a believer, but he was impressed by the man’s sincerity, concern, and honesty. Of course he didn’t really understand the man’s message.

To the unbeliever it seemed like he was just trying to proselytize, to get him to join his religion. In reality the man was trying to explain a truth that is bigger than any religious organizations. What Penn said about this encounter is quite a challenge. He said, “If you believe there is a heaven and hell, and you think it’s not worth telling someone about it, how much do you have to hate him to not proselytize? To believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell people? This man cared enough about me to proselytize.” Penn said he has no respect for Christians who do not share their faith.

We have this one real remedy for facing
and making it trough life’s miseries.

First, we need to take the cure ourselves by trusting God’s promises through Jesus Christ the Savior. Then we need to take that cure to those we talk with this week. We should tell them very humbly but with conviction about this message of Scripture:

  1. We have offended our Creator. Our sin alienates us from him, and we are unable to fix the problem.
  2. Jesus Christ repaired the damage by dying in place of his people paying their debt.
  3. There is no misery so great, that he can’t deliver those he redeems from it.
  4. God calls us to admit our offenses and to rely upon our Savior’s grace alone for our deliverance.

(The Bible quotations in this Lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

Where did the Bible come from?

Bible Basics

by Bob Burridge ©2011, 2021
Lesson 1: Where did the Bible come from?

The Bible was written by people specially chosen for that task by God. They were guided supernaturally so that they wrote exactly what God wanted them to write. This means that everything in the Bible is true. There can be no mistakes in the Bible because it’s God’s word. The 66 Books of the Bible are often called “the Scriptures” which means “the Writings”.

The Old Testament was written and completed long before the time of Jesus. The New Testament was written just after the time when Jesus was crucified.

In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 the Apostle Paul explained the origin and purpose of the Bible.

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

God made sure that the ancient copies of the original Bible books were carefully preserved so that God’s word can be studied today. We can compare the thousands of copies of each book so that we can be sure what the original ones said.

The Bibles we use are translated into our own language to help us understand what God said in those ancient times. What he tells us there is important. It tells us what God wants us to know. We should read and carefully study God’s word every day.

Lesson 2: What is true about God?
Index of our lessons on Bible Basics
(Bible verses are quoted from the New King James Version of the Bible)

The Day We Fell

The Day We Fell

Video presentation of this lesson
(Westminster Shorter Catechism Q:13-17)
by Bob Burridge ©2011

There was a time when humans lived
in sinless fellowship with God.

We don’t know how long this time of human innocence lasted, but it must have been a very short part of our human history. There were only two people on the earth then. They had no ancestors, no stores, no clocks, and no taxes to pay. Food was provided by the lush garden they lived in, and they were in direct communication with God. There was no guilt, no secrets to keep, no troublesome neighbors, and no feelings of depression.

It would be wrong to think that there were no rules in Eden. God had given Adam and then Eve some mandates. They were to represent the Creator in caring for and in managing all that was made. Genesis 2:15 says they were to work the garden and attend to it. God established the seven-day week where they labored for six days, then stopped working for one whole day to remember God as their Creator. The two who lived there were husband and wife. They were told to be faithful to one another, and to have children together as the starting point of the human race.

They didn’t just laze around in the garden. They were busy doing what they were made to do. Work isn’t something to avoid. It is very rewarding when it is done to fulfill that for which we are put here on earth.

There was one tree in the garden that produced a fruit they were told not to eat. God’s word calls it the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. To eat its fruit meant certain death.

Both Adam and Eve knew that God was a fact. He created them and directly spoke with them. They had everything materially that they could ever want. There was nothing to covet that others had. There were no others, no markets or products. There was no craving for popularity or power. There was no one to compete with or to conquer. All God made was theirs, and God was their direct companion. They didn’t have a bad childhood, irresponsible parents, or a bad neighborhood to overcome.

You would think that in such a good setting, rebellion would be impossible. However, as we all know, that’s not the way things turned out.

Question 13 of our Shorter Catechism asks, “Did our first parents continue in the estate wherein they were created?”

The answer explains the sad facts about what happened there in ancient Eden. It says, “Our first parents, being left to the freedom of their own will, fell from the estate wherein they were created, by sinning against God.”

When the catechism says that Adam and Eve were left to the freedom of their own will, it doesn’t mean God had no control over what they did or didn’t do, or that his plan was in anyway uncertain or changeable. It means they did what they wanted to do. They weren’t compelled to obey or to sin when they didn’t really want to. They personally wanted to do all that they did.

It is important for us to know what sin is.

It is not just something defined by our personal opinions. It is not simply things disapproved of by our culture, friends, or some group of scholars. It is not even defined by our own conscience and personal feelings. Sin is what the Creator says it is.

The next question in the Shorter Catechism, Question 14, asks, “What is sin?”

The answer summarizes what the Bible says about it, “Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.”

Here the word law is used in the broad sense as it is used in many places in the Bible. It means all the principles God says should guide our lives as we live for his glory. When we do anything he forbids, or when we fail to do all that he commands, we sin.

Sin isn’t some mysterious force we can blame when we do what is wrong. Sin does not exist as a separate created thing. It is not something floating around in the universe looking for someone to be its victim. Sin is something done by individuals, persons created by God. It is any desire, thought, or action that either does what God forbids, or neglects that which he commands.

The test God designed was that tree,
the one named for the knowledge of good and evil.

There were many mandates he gave our first parents. They were to care for creation, to be faithful to one another and have children, and to honor the Sabbath. The real test was to obey his command about that tree.

The next question in our Shorter Catechism, number 15, asks, “What was the sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein they were created?”

The answer is very simple. “The sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein they were created, was their eating the forbidden fruit.”

That was the target of the great enemy of God, Satan. The Bible says he is a deceiver from the beginning. He twisted God’s words around, and persuaded Eve to want what God said she should not have. Then she got Adam to eat it too.

Adam was our representative there in Eden.

By divine covenant we were all in Adam when he sinned. It was the day we all died. Question 16 of our Catechism asks, “Did all mankind fall in Adam’s first transgression?”

The answer is, “The covenant being made with Adam, not only for himself, but for his posterity, all mankind descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him, in his first transgression.”

This is the reason for suffering and physical death. It is why we are all born dead spiritually. As hard as this may be for some to accept, it is the plain teaching of the Bible. We all became sinners in Adam as Romans 5:12 clearly explains. There it says, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned”

When Paul said in Romans 7:20, “Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.” he didn’t mean that sin was something alien that took over his soul and body. The context is about the battle Paul sees in himself as a believer. On the one hand – he wants to do what God commands. On the other hand – he is still imperfect, and knows that he still does wrong things. He knows it is him doing the sinful things, not some impersonal force in him. It is the remains of his fallen nature that battle against what he knows is right. There is no excuse given here, no passing of the buck.

The point here in Romans 5:12 is that sin is an inherited disorder. Sin is not something we have to learn or discover. The Bible tells us that no one is without sin. We are born with it.

King David knew that when he wrote in Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.” He didn’t mean that his mother sinned in conceiving him. David was saying that he was corrupted by sin from the moment he was conceived.

By God’s design, Adam stood for all of us when he sinned. He did not just act on his own. He represented the whole human race.

Being represented by another person is not a strange idea. It was the foolish anger of one man, the Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt, that send so many Egyptian citizens to their deaths in the Red Sea when they chased after Moses and the people of Israel. Ambassadors make treaties that effect whole nations. Our representatives in congress may commit us all to war where some have to fight and die, or to budgets we are obligated to fund through taxes and international borrowing. Parents make choices that effect their children’s entire lives; where they live, the clothes they wear, and the kind of education they get.

Our representation in Eden was of a special kind. In Romans 5:14 Paul explained, “Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.”

Adam was appointed in God’s Covenant to represent the whole human race. His sin condemned all his natural descendants. The only exception was Jesus Christ. He was not a natural descendant. He was conceived supernaturally by the Holy Spirit, and was without inherited sin.

God warned Adam in Genesis 2:17 about the penalty for eating the forbidden fruit; ” … in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Since Adam acted for us in Eden, the Bible says we “all sinned” in Adam. We inherit the guilt and corrupt nature that came from that sin.

At conception we all deserve eternal and
complete separation from fellowship with God.

Catechism Question 17 asks, “Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?”

The answer is, “The fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery.”

An article in Time Magazine reported an incident like all too many we hear every day. Police detectives had arrested four teenagers for beating up some homeless people in a park. When they were taken into custody the boys confessed to a whole list of violent crimes. The boys were ages 18, 17, 16 and 15. In just sixteen days they had beaten an old man to death, beaten several old men but came short of killing them, had used a whip on two teen-age girls, had tied gasoline soaked cloth around a man’s legs and set it on fire, and had dragged a man seven blocks before dumping him in the river where he drowned.

To the shock of the neighbors these 4 teens had good school records, came from good homes, none belonged to gangs, they were active in organized sports, and three of the four had been summer camp counselors.

We shake our heads over news reports like that. We ask, “What is our world coming to? See what modern ways are doing to our children to make them do such things!” But that Time Magazine article was published in the early 1950’s.

Has such corruption been around that long? Even before cable-TV and the Internet? Of course there is no disagreement that crime rates have risen as the population has grown. However, we need to be careful that we don’t blame corruption so much on society, or innovations, that we forget its real source.

Our sins are committed willingly. They come from a diseased soul that was infected in Eden.

God has a bigger plan than just
leaving us all in that fallen condition.

Adam was a type, a foreshadowing of another one who would represent his people.

Adam represented all humans when he was put to the test and sinned in Eden. Jesus Christ represented all those God promised to redeem. He suffered and died in their place, taking on their guilt to pay the penalty for their sins. He lived a righteous life in their place, to clothe them with a righteousness that was his own.

The next section in Romans 5, verses 15-21, compares these two representatives.

15 But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many.
16 And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification.
17 For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.)
18 Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.
19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.
20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more,
21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

What each representative did was credited to all they represented. In 1 Corinthians 15:45 God’s word calls Jesus the “last Adam”. There is a big difference between Adam and Jesus. The one brought death by sin. The other brought innocence by the work of the Savior.

Notice the things Jesus secured for us as our representative. By his obedience, his great act of righteousness, all redeemed by him receive …
:15 the gift of grace, abounding to many
:16 justification before God for all our sins
:17 abundance of grace, the gift of righteousness, the promise of reigning in life by Christ
:18 justification and life for all those Jesus represented on the Cross
:19 righteousness by the obedience of our Savior
:20 grace abounding
:21 reigning grace through righteousness and the promise of eternal life

All this was earned by Jesus Christ because God promised it in his Covenant.

Representatives only can stand in place of their people when they are rightly appointed. Ambassadors can only represent Kings and countries if they were sent out by the governing authorities. Our Congressmen can only pass laws when elected by the people they represent. Parents can only oversee the lives of their own children. God the Creator appointed Adam to represent those he created. By that eternal determination in the heart of the Trinity, Jesus was appointed to represent his people.

Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:3-6, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.”

Only our Creator could assign someone to represent the moral guilt of other creatures. It is interesting that some say this clear teaching of Scripture is unfair. They say it is not fair that Adam’s choice and sin made us all sinners. They say, “He did it, not us. We had no choice in the matter.” They refuse to accept God’s word that his sin was credited to us all as his descendants.

However, you don’t hear people complain that it is unfair that Jesus died in the sinner’s place. He did it, not us. We didn’t choose him, until he first makes us able by grace. Our choice of Christ, is because of God’s prior choice of us. As it says in 1 John 4:19, “We love Him because He first loved us.”

This is not just a technical and theological issue.

This is the attitude correction we need so that we can enjoy our daily fellowship with God. It is the foundation for living the way God said we should.

Instead of having to prove ourselves, or impress others to get what we want, we learn to admit that we really need a Savior. By accepting the fact of our inherited guilt in Adam we finally understand evil.

We see that fallen nature in the extremely lawless and wicked. There it seems to make sense. We would be that way too if it was not for God’s restraining mercies. We can understand why we struggle so much with sin. It is why we do what we know we shouldn’t, and neglect all that God says we should be doing. It helps us know what repentance and confession of sin is all about. It is when we fully agree with God about what he says concerning us i his word. It humbles us before our Savior.

Arrogance disappears, and dedicated service to Christ takes its place. Humble concern for others becomes more important that impressing people.

Why did God decree to permit sin to be part of his universe? Why did he put Adam over us knowing what he would do? knowing the consequences? He did it because it was a necessary part of his purpose in creation, to fully reveal his power, his justice, his mercy, and grace. The perfect universe is not one where there was never any sin. It is one where the Creator redeemed his people from the grip of sin to reveal his amazing grace.

By knowing how we relate to the First Adam, and to Jesus the Last Adam, we appreciate God’s boundless love that stands with us even when we do wrong. We see the restoring power of the gospel that transforms lives and assures us that we are his. We know that no matter how bad things get, God’s plan and promises can never fail.

All who come to rest their hope in the Savior alone, have the promise that one day when the final judgment comes, there will be no need for defending ourselves or for arguing our case to convince God to receive us. It will be a humble falling before the Creator admitting our unworthiness. It will be a time to confess how we confidently trust in the all-sufficient work of Jesus, our representative at Calvary. We will stand there clothed in the robe of his righteousness. We will hear him declare us to have his own innocence credited to us.

What a glorious and amazing blessing is ours because of the work of Jesus Christ!

Go out today with the gospel hope in your heart.

You have an answer for why things seem so bad, even though you know that God is King. You bring with you the remedy God provides for re-structuring your family and community. You have real help for your friends and for those you meet. You can help them discover what they were created to be, and how that can be restored in them by the transforming work of the Redeemer.

This is the one real and genuine cause for joyful worship and thankful living. As Paul concluded here in Romans 5:20, ” … where sin abounded, grace abounded much more”

(The Bible quotations in this article are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

Special From the Start

Special From the Start

Video presentation of this lesson
Westminster Shorter Catechism Q:12
by Bob Burridge ©2011

It’s no wonder that so many people complain about depression. They are surrounded by so called “experts” telling them they are just an evolutionary accident. To make it worse, some say we humans are the bad accident that is destroying the rest of the world.

If we are just a cosmic curiosity that emerged by pure chance without purpose or meaning, then our immediate feelings and pleasures would be all that counts.

When people think they are just another animal let loose in a meaningless world to serve themselves, it is understandable that there is so much selfish violence when someone gets in the way. There could be no standard of morality that makes some things just plain wrong. There would be little to get excited about beyond what brings personal pleasure. The malignancy that grows from that is the life-numbing apathy that is so common today.

In such a world, there can be no accountability beyond what immediate benefits the individual. That makes people want others to do the hard work of managing their responsibilities. That idea is being promoted in our culture. It permeates education, some music, movies, games, economics, politics, social theory, personal relationships, and much of current trends in theology.

According to Atheist Jacques Monod, “… man at last knows that he is alone in the universe’s unfeeling immensity, out of which he emerged only by chance. His destiny is nowhere spelled out, nor is his duty. The kingdom above or the darkness below: it is for him to choose.”

Albert Einstein may have been a good physicist, but he studied a universe he misunderstood. He proved that even great intellects can miss the obvious. He once said, “I consider ethics to be an exclusively human concern without any superhuman authority behind it.”

This is what is believed by most of those who report what we think of as news, who make our movies, who write our magazines, construct video games, and make our music.

Humans are not just one little insignificant piece
in a vast evolving universe.

We are not just equal members of a created array of living things. The Bible tells us that we were created to be special agents for promoting the Creator’s glory. We humans are here in God’s world for a reason – each one of us.

Even before humanity fell into sin through Adam, God revealed something amazing. There is a covenant relationship between us and our Creator. It is important that we understand what we were made to be from the beginning, and what Jesus Christ restores us to be when he redeems us to be his people.

The 12th question of our Shorter Catechism teaches about how special humans are. It asks, “What special act of providence did God exercise towards man, in the estate wherein he was created?”

The answer it gives is very simple — but profound, “When God had created man, he entered into a covenant of life with him, upon condition of perfect obedience forbidding him to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, upon pain of death.”

A covenant is a very special type of promise.

The Bible talks a lot about covenants, but this i’s a foreign idea in our 21st century culture. It is not like the contracts and agreements we make between two equals parties.

The Old Testament in Hebrew uses the word berit (ברית) to describe these covenants. It was a common word back when God moved Moses to use it in his books of the Bible. It was a term used in the ancient Hittite suzerainty treaties of that day.

There were basic elements in every covenant. When a king conquered a city or province, he was thought to have the right to kill all his enemies. Instead of just destroying all the people, the wise king often subjugated them. It was not a negotiated deal he worked out with representatives of the conquered citizens. He sovereignly imposed a covenant making promises based upon conditions.

The King promised he would not kill them even though he had a right to do so. He also promised that his army would protect them. The people had to pledge loyalty to the king, and do all that the king commanded. Usually that meant serving in his military, and paying taxes. The penalty for violating the treaty was death. There was a formal ratification ceremony to legalize the deal. Animals were dismembered to show what would happen to violators of the covenant.

After explaining all this from historical records, Dr. O. Palmer Robertson, in his book The Christ of the Covenants, defined these ancient covenants as, “a bond in blood sovereignly administered.”

God used this same word to explain his special providence toward the humans he created. The bond God made with man is referred to in the Bible as a berit (ברית), a covenant. As the Sovereign Creator, before the fall into sin, God promised life to Adam. He would protect and sustain him and all the humans he represented. They were obligated to loyally obey God, and to served him as caretakers of his creation.

We know that there was that tree in Eden called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It was there to test their obedience. The tree of life represented God’s promise to them. However, man’s duties were more broad than just not eating from the forbidden fruit. There were several Creation Ordinances God gave to Adam.

In Genesis 1:26-28, the Bible tells about the creation of man. “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’ ”

Humans were made to honor and to be loyal to their Creator as their only God. They were to work in the garden to maintain it and exercise dominion over it. They acted in God’s place as representative masters over all that was made.

Adam and his wife were to produce offspring to fill the earth. In chapter 2, Genesis adds that they were to be faithful to one another.

When he finished his creation, God limited man’s work in a very special way. He was to work faithfully for six days, then set aside one full day of ceasing from that labor. That wasn’t Adam’s day to take it easy and rest up. It was a day dedicated to the Lord. The rest it speaks of is a ceasing from the labor he performed on other days to provide for his own needs. This would be a day for honoring the Creator in his ceasing from the works of Creation. Man’s work on that day was to worship their Maker very specially.

In Exodus 20:8-11 God said the Sabbath Commandment was based upon this creation ordinance. There it says, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”

The Sabbath wasn’t something new instituted at Mt. Sinai for Israel. It was a day to remember the Creation Command God announced at the beginning. There was to be a day of ceasing from what was done on the other six days.

This Covenant of Life was a gracious covenant because it was totally undeserved. Adam was newly created. He hadn’t done anything to deserve God’s blessings. The idea that grace and law are at odds with one another is a horrible misunderstanding. Law and Grace are not opposites. They must go together. Law informs us about what honors God. It reveals our sin when we disobey it. Grace removes our guilt, and enables us to do what honors God by his redeeming love.

Since the promise was life, the Westminster Shorter Catechism calls it a Covenant of Life. Some call it the Covenant of Works because of the condition of obedience placed upon Adam. It has been suggested that we should call it the Covenant of Creation.

These Creation Ordinances were later summarized in the Ten Commandments. They were each assumed to continue by Jesus and the Apostles. By the power and love of our Risen Savior we are forgiven and redeemed to keep them today. God demanded perfect and personal obedience to all these basic ordinances. There is no provision for only sometimes being faithful to God. No one is able to obey that perfectly. It is only when we are clothed in the righteousness of our Savior that we are counted as worthy to stand in the presence of the Creator we have offended.

As long as the humans fully obeyed the covenant instituted at Creation, God gave them life. If they disobeyed, even in one small forbidden act, that life would be taken away. They would be subject to physical death, and would die spiritually. The result is total alienation from God for themselves and for all those who would descend from them.

God’s Covenant in Eden was what we call a Federal relationship.

Adam represented all the human race. We were all there, represented by him. The Creation Covenant, all it’s commandments together with the blessings and punishments, were made through Adam, but with all of us federally. As Paul put it in Romans 5:12, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.”

Adam’s first sin violated the covenant and made all he represented subject to death. In him we’re all fallen and deserve God’s wrath forever.

As the wise and Sovereign king, under no obligation to preserve any of the human race, God promised to redeem some from the fallen race to be his people, and for him to be their God.

This is what we call the Covenant of Grace. (We’ll take that up on more detail in a later study.) It is also referred to as a berit (ברית), a covenant, in the Bible. It was not deserved by us. It was sovereignly made with us at the cost of the shedding of the Savior’s blood.

Jesus the Messiah was the only one qualified to represent the fallen race other than Adam. Federally, as the representative of his people, the Savior died in their place.

The principle of federalism means that representatives act for those they represent. When our lawmakers pass a law, we all have to obey it. When congress declares war, we are all at war. if it is our personal choice or not. God tells us that Adam represented the whole human race. He also tells us that Jesus represented all of his people when he died and rose again.

It is interesting that people often object that it is unfair that we all fell in Adam. The fallen soul wants to be captain of its own fate. It rejects the biblical definition of God. It rebels at the idea that he has to pay for what Adam did.

The Creator built this principle into his creation. What he directly decrees cannot be wrong. He is the definition of what is right and wrong in the universe he made for his own purposes and glory. It is interesting that very few ever complain that it is unfair to be represented by Jesus. They don’t like it that we are all condemned by what Adam did, but few say it is not right to be redeemed by Jesus when he represented us on the Cross. He obeyed God’s law and died representing his people in the same type of federal relationship.

The key idea in this first covenant with man is the promise of life.

That is what God promised. In the end, that life is exactly what all his people will receive.

The path to that wonderful end is the adventure of human history. It is the continuing war between evil and good. It includes the attacks and calamities that come against us which are the fruits of that fall into sin. It is the victories God’s people enjoy when suffering is comforted, when disease is healed, when lonely people find love, when families are blessed with children, when lost hurting souls are redeemed by Christ, when humble believers gather together in humble worship, and when those rescued souls enjoy the beauty and wonder of the Creator’s Universe.

God’s Creation Covenant did not fail. It accomplished exactly all God intended it to. It set up the need that revealed his saving grace. It also shows that God made us special and that is what we ought to be. Those redeemed are to carry out the responsibilities he gave to Adam and to his posterity.

Enabled by the work of our Living Savior, Jesus Christ, the one who shed his blood in our place, we should be faithful managers of all God made. We are to use all God made for the Creator’s glory. We are to use it responsibly for our provisions. We should be faithful in our marriages, and in the raising of our children. We are to be hard workers doing our best in all we do, and doing it first of all for God’s glory. We should honor God’s Sabbath according to the rules he gave us in his word. We need to remain loyal to the one true God only, the one who made us.

The promises are still to be realized in full. One day, perhaps soon, maybe a long time in the distant future, the death imposed by Adam’s sin will be no more. We will enter an eternal and perfect place in the presence of our Maker. There he will sustain us in life, and we will joyfully and perfectly live for his glory. Forever he will be our God, and we who come through Christ will always be his people.

There will be no more tests, no more struggles or discomforts, no more war with evil, and no more waiting for victory to come some day. That day will come. It is at the end of the path we all struggle along every day. When we know the path, and the power and grace of the one who constructed it, we can enjoy the wait, find comfort even in the hard stretches of the journey.

(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

Failure Is Impossible

Failure Is Impossible

Video presentation of this lesson
Westminster Shorter Catechism Q11: God’s Providence
by Bob Burridge ©2011

When we make plans, we try to plan for the unexpected.

If you go on an camping trip, you take along a first aid kit. You pack tools to repair things. As Boy Scouts we were expected to live up to our motto, “Be Prepared.” That’s why we have spare tires in our cars, back-up files for things stored on our computers, and fire-extinguishers in our kitchens.

None of us can be sure about what might happen, so we prepare for the unknown. Those of us who live in Florida try to be prepared during the warmer months for the threatened approach of a hurricane. A few years ago Tropical Storm Fay appeared to be aiming directly at us here in Pinellas County. Stores sold out of propane tanks, bottles of water, duct tape and batteries. As it turned out, Fay didn’t become a Hurricane, and our county never felt it’s power. However, we wisely prepared, even though we knew the predictions were very uncertain.

Several years ago Hurricane Charlie also seemed to target Tampa Bay. Just hours away, it suddenly turned sharply and hit communities way south of us. Many were unprepared there because it was suppose to visit us. The result was devastating to a community caught by surprise. It is always best to take precautions in spite of our best guesses to err on the side of safety.

We often have to deal with things we don’t count on. We hear people talk about back-up plans, fall-back positions, alternate routes, and things like that.

When our astronauts first landed on the moon, one of the first things they did was to scoop up what they called a “contingency sample” of moon soil. It was gathered in case they had to leave quickly before more careful samples could be collected.

Our plans are good if they do what we design them to do, but they are seldom, if ever, perfect. That is why we plan for the unexpected and make room for the uncertain. This is why it is hard to really comprehend the fact that God’s plan never changes or fails to accomplish exactly what God eternally intended.

It is hard for us to imagine a perfect plan.

God’s eternal plan for his creation includes everything that ever happens, and all that makes it happen. What God intends always takes place just as he meant it to.

Psalm 135:6, “Whatever the LORD pleases He does, In heaven and in earth, In the seas and in all deep places.”

There’s a prejudice in the fallen mind. Unless you are redeemed by grace, you will always modify what God says about himself in the Bible.

One of the hardest concepts to understand, much less accept, is the absolute sovereignty of God. He is not only King of all kings. He is Ruler over every molecule, every quantum of energy, every event, and every outcome.

Bible scholars spent over five years putting together the Westminster Standards. They summarized the decrees of God in Shorter Catechism questions 7 through 12. The answer to question 7 tells what the Bible says about God’s decrees. It says, “The decrees of God are his eternal purpose according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.”

God put his decrees into action with the works of creation and providence. He Created everything in the physical universe, and all the living things he put in it. His work of providence is his direction of all creation toward it’s intended goal.

Question 11 of the Shorter Catechism asks, “What are God’s works of providence?” The answer derived from Scripture alone is, “God’s works of providence are his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures, and all their actions.”

God is much more than what most people understand.

Even God’s own spiritual children can get confused by popular opinions about their Creator’s nature. Our imperfect human minds try to imagine him being like us. In our imperfect state we tend to read our own limitations into the infinite, eternal, and unchangeable nature of God.

Some believers still imagine God to be limited by what he created as if he needs our permission to save us. The problem is that the Bible says very clearly that you trusted in him only because he already redeemed you. Otherwise we would never have learned to love him.

Some imagine that our prayers actually inform God and convince him to change his eternal plan. That’s not the power promised in prayer. We aren’t smarter than God to advise him. However, God uses the power of our prayers to carry out his perfect plan. When you pray, and God does what you ask him, you discover that all along he made you part of that wonderful work. When you fail to pray, you show that you have not honored God’s call to come to him about the needs he brings to your attention. It shows a lack of care to be part of his works on earth. That is a frightening thing to discover about yourself.

Generally, fallen man accepts his corrupted idea of God. For the most part, he loves believing in a super being who helps him, but he refuses to admit that he answer to him as a fallen sinner. He does not give him all the glory for his faith, for his good choices, for his charity, and successes. He wants some of the glory for himself.

When God’s love transforms your heart through Christ, you set aside your human pride and prejudices. You see a more marvelous God than you otherwise could have imagined.

We already read in Psalm 135:6 that God does all he pleases at all times. Psalm 115:3 says almost the same thing. … our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.

That was one of the lessons Job had to learn. In Job 42:2 he humbly learned to say to God, “I know that You can do everything, And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.”

In Colossians 1:16 the Apostle Paul wrote, “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.”

That is the purpose of Creation. He made all things “for him”. Creation built the platform on which all God planned is carried out. Everything, without exception, declares the Creator’s glory and power.

The Westminster Confession, chapter five, begins this way, “God the great Creator of all things does uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by His most wise and holy providence, according to His infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of His own will, to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.”

This is the work of providence, one of the great truths about your God. It is amazing and comforting to remember that God directs everything in the world in which we live.

God’s providence directs the events of nature.

The word providence comes from a Latin word providere, which means “to see before.” The corresponding Greek word in the New Testament is pronoia (πρόνοια). It means “forethought.” (ISBE)

It’s far more than just looking ahead to see what is going to happen. God knows it, because he decreed it, and because he has the infinite power to control it all. God provides for all that is needed for his plan to work out. He sees it all as a whole thing, not as individual disconnected events. This provision for the whole course of history is what we call his “providence”.

Throughout the Bible, we see God’s absolute control over his creation. In Job 12:15 it says about God, “If He withholds the waters, they dry up; If He sends them out, they overwhelm the earth.”

Jesus said in Matthew 5:45, “… He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

In Acts 17 Paul described God as the Creator and Preserver of everything. He not only made it all, he also directs everything to serve his purposes. In verse 26 he said about all the nations, that he, “… has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings.”

One of the problems we struggle with is understanding evil. People wonder how God can be in control when there is wickedness in his universe.

But by God’s providence he even governs the boundaries of evil.

If God made all things to declare his glory as the Bible tells us, then there needs to be a way to display his Justice, his Mercy, and his Amazing Grace. So he made his world susceptible to sin so he could rescue his people from it. Obviously, the best universe is one where sin is beaten, not one where sin never existed.

It is not for us to be able to see how it all fits together just yet, but we are assured that it does. Job never knew why God put him through those hard times and deep sorrows, but he did learn that God had reasons he did not need to know.

While Joseph suffered in prison after his brothers sold him into slavery, while he wondered why he was put in a dungeon for a crime he never committed, he could not yet see how God was setting the stage for great blessings through him. He was put in place to save God’s people from a famine. He was there to lead them to Egypt which became the background for the great Exodus.

When he was very old Joseph lived to see some of the reasons for his suffering. He said to his brothers in Genesis 50:20, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.”

The greatest act of evil in all of history was the brutal killing of Jesus Christ. Evil men were clearly responsible for what they did, yet God had planned it from all eternity as the greatest display of his love and grace. Peter explained it exactly that way to the crowds in Acts 2:23, “Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death;”

There was no excuse in saying that God determined it. Those who crucified him were personally guilty. They sinned willingly. Yet it was all part of a greater plan. Probably as they laid our Lord’s body in the tomb and accepted the fact of his death, the disciples could not see how any good could come from that Roman injustice. However, on the third day the resurrected Jesus appeared to them, and they could see there was a wonderful purpose in what seemed a senseless violence.

Proverbs 16:4 says, “The LORD has made all for Himself, Yes, even the wicked for the day of doom.”

As God’s child, your calling is to live honorably,
responsibly, through the unfolding of these decrees.

We who live in Florida know how hard it is to predict path of hurricanes. They are driven by the heat of the sun. It makes the air above the waters in one place hotter than the air around it. The rising hot air draws in the cooler air which gets heated up and rises into the atmosphere. The wind rushing in starts to spin because of the rotation of the earth. Other air masses around the storms feed it, and push at it, and sometimes become barriers to its movement. The storm follows the path through the boundaries of the surrounding systems. Though it is complicated, and we have a hard time predicting exactly where a storm will go, it moves as part of a greater complexity.

The path of history seems to move through the boundaries of circumstances, ambition, opportunity, greed and patriotism. Severe storms in the North Atlantic, navigational mistakes, and a new set of British naval tactics ended the powerful military threat of the Spanish Armada. The great Empire of Rome faded away under incompetent Emperors, self-centered citizens, a weakened military unable to protect from invaders, and as the historian Gibbon calls it “immoderate greatness.”

The brave patriotism of oppressed colonies stood with unexpected resolve against England. The many loyalties and events of the Revolutionary War gave us our own nation.

All the turns in the path of time were long before laid out in the plan of God. He sent the winds against mighty warships, and stirred bravery in the hearts of patriots. He trained and gave brilliance to leaders, inventors, pastors, explorers and writers. He raised up nations and brought down empires.

In your own life He caused you to be conceived just as you are in the womb of your mother. He gave you the lessons, joys, tragedies, and opportunities that shaped your choices. He alone opened your eyes to see your need for forgiveness for offenses against God, and stirred faith in your heart to trust in Jesus Christ as your only hope and Savior.

He brought you here at this very page, at this very moment, with all that is now on your mind, with all you remember of your life before this lesson started, and with all your concerns about what you face when this lesson ends. He has used all that has touched your life and all the lives you’ve touched to create the opportunities that shape the rest of today, tomorrow, and the remainder of your life.

Though it is valuable and important to know the history of what God has done, and to understand the principles that he lovingly tells you about in his word, the moral question is not how or why things are as they are right now. It is to know how you will live in these conditions to be a good child of your Father in Heaven.

Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

Your responsibility is not to try to figure out what is coming next, or why God decrees each thing. It is to do what he tells you to do with the attitude he says is right.

Give thanks to God alone for every good thing in your life. James 1:17 reminds us, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”

Rest in the power of the Risen Christ alone for whatever strength you will ever need. His word gives you lessons that make you wiser than anyone will ever become in universities, through years of experience, research, and practice. Nothing, no enemy, no rude or ambitions rival, no turn of circumstances, can even slightly frustrate the plan of the Creator and Preserver of the Universe, the one who is your loving and faithful Redeemer, Enabler, and Father.

Confidently press on in service of the King of kings. Remember that the little things you do, your choices, your hardships and sufferings, the words you speak, the thoughts you think, even your humbling failures are part of something far bigger than any of us can imagine.

God’s providence isn’t an intellectual exercise in theology. It is the promise and hope of every believer in Christ. It is the assurance that you have nothing to fear.

As the Apostle Paul was moved to write for God in Romans 8:28, it is the certainty that, “all things work together for good, to those who love God and who are called according to his purpose.”

(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

Where Did It All Come From?

Index of Lessons in the Westminster Shorter Catechism

Where Did It All Come From?

Video (Part 1) presentation of this lesson
Video (Part 2) presentation of this lesson
Video (Part 3) presentation of this lesson
(Westminster Shorter Catechism Q: 9-10)
by Bob Burridge ©2011

We live in and are a part of an amazing universe.

It was all created by God. Every part of it is declaring the Creator’s glory and power all the time.

God’s Creation holds mysteries that have intrigued humans ever since God put us here. It is so vast that we have only seen a tiny part of all he made. Yet, what we see is awesome and beyond our comprehension.

Distant things in our universe totally unknown a century ago have been declaring God’s glory for eons.

Though Pluto was demoted from planet to plutoid, another category became available for classifying the diverse objects that fill our solar system. Eris was added to that group along with Makemake and Ceres. We’ve observed volcanoes erupting on the planet Mercury, ice on Mars, and distant white dwarf stars that are changing our understanding of how stars mature.

We have learned to take the rocks and minerals in God’s world and make amazing things out of them. They rage from tiny computer chips that power our telephones, game machines and home computers, to huge bridges, buildings, and orbiting space stations.

We’ve mapped the detailed chemical structure of DNA molecules that code the human body. With electron microscopes we can see the detailed structures of disease organisms. We can even watch the heat and electrical flow in a living human brain as it thinks, and monitor the flow of blood through a beating human heart.

There are many things we haven’t seen yet, and many of them we will probably never see. Yet they are there evidencing God’s glory in wonders beyond our present comprehension.

Science tries to observe things carefully and measurably. Then it develops mathematical models to predict how things are expected to behave under different circumstances. The work of real science simply observes, measures, fits things together, and tests its predictions, so it can’t possibly conflict with what the Bible teaches.

However, science is often confused with things people assume about God’s universe. Some who don’t want to believe that God created it all out of nothing are forced to come up with evolutionary theories that make it all an accident, the result of irregularities in whatever came before our physical universe. That is why evolutionary theory is more a philosophy than what we properly call science.

Of course there are many different views of evolutionism, and there are many different views about creationism. If you’re interested in a detailed study of the different views of Creation you can go to our Genevan Institute web site to read some articles in our Commentary on the Westminster Confession about that in the unit about God’s decree of creation. Though there is room for theories, the Christian must keep them within the boundaries of the basic facts God gives us in his written word.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism, Questions 9 and 10, deal with God’s work of Creation. It summarizes the basic Bible facts this way:

Question 9: What is the work of creation?
Answer: The work of creation is God’s making all things of nothing, by the word of his power, in the space of six days, and all very good.

The most basic fact is that God made everything.

The first two verses of Genesis say, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”

Without arguments or debate, the plain fact is undeniable: God made everything. The word for God here is the Hebrew majestic plural Elohim (אלהים). The God of Scripture is one God, amazing and supremely wonderful.
He exists eternally in three persons.

All three persons of the Trinity were involved in the work of creation.
God the Father worked in creation. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 8:6. “… there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; …”

God the Son also worked in creation. John 1:3 describes Jesus as the Word. It says, “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.”

Colossians 1:16-17 is talking about Jesus when it says, “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.”

God the Holy Spirit worked in creation too. Genesis 1:2 tells us that in creation, “the Spirit of God was hovering over … the waters.” In Job 26:13 it says, “By His Spirit He adorned the heavens; …”

These three persons, the One True God, created everything out of nothing.
When we make something, a table, a fence, a radio, a table decoration, or a meal, we first need to get the raw materials we need to make it. If it is a piece of furniture or a tree house, you need the lumber and hardware. If it is a good hamburger you need beef, a bun, and whatever condiments you like on it.

However, what did God start with when he made this universe? What ingredients did he have? That’s the amazing thing — he had nothing outside of himself.

Psalm 33:6 says, “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.”

God had his eternal intention and his infinite power — nothing more. He made all things, visible and invisible, out of nothing.

The first thing God made was light. He simply willed it into existence. Genesis 1:3-5 says, “Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.”

God’s creation was organized into work done in the space of six days.
He laid out the cosmos in an orderly way to display his glory. The writers of the confession, regardless of their personal beliefs, used very simple wording here to stay faithful to scripture. The Hebrew word translated here as “day”, is used in many ways in the Bible. In Genesis 1 it seems to refer to specific normal 24-hour days of some sort. In other biblical references to creation the word allows for a less precise measurement of time. The King James Version and almost all other translations sometimes translate the same Hebrew word yom (יום) as “era, years, time” and other such words.

There have been many ideas about the age of the earth and universe. Many who firmly believe the Bible to be the infallible and inerrant word of God hold to different interpretations about how long the days of creation were. Genesis 1 is very difficult to put on an absolute time-line.

One group of interpretations is that it refers to six 24-hour days.

  • Some see the days as happening one right after the other, a total of 144 hours.
  • Some believe the 24-hour days are separated by long ages maybe billions of years long.
  • Some see the days as referring to an actual 24-hour day at the end of each creation period. On a specific day, God named or inspected what he made and pronounced it to be “good”.

Others don’t think it means that the days were 24 hours long at all.

  • Some think the word day there refers to long periods of time.
  • Some believe they were just figurative descriptions with no indication of time at all.

Could God have done it all in 144 hours? Of course he could have. The real question is not about what he could have done, but how long did he actually decide to take? The Bible doesn’t directly answer that question.

We need to be very cautious when we deal with matters not addressed in God’s word. We need to content ourselves with what’s directly stated. or what can be determined by necessary deduction from Scripture. Beyond that we get into areas of dangerous speculation.

The clear teaching here is that God made all things in an orderly way. Then God stopped creating and established the Sabbath Day. It is a day for us to stop the work we do on the other six days of the week. On that day, we should remember what God did in making all things by the word of his power to carry out his eternal plan and to reveal his glory.

After each stage of Creation, God announced that all he made was very good.
That is the repeated pattern after he made each group of things. God saw all he made and said it was “good”.

The word for “good” there is “tov” (תוב). It means that each group of things he made exactly fulfilled all he intended for it to be and to do. The result is an intricate and complex display of God’s power and glory. There is a uniformity in the design, pattern, and behavior of all the things God made.

Psalm 19:1-2 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge.”

In Romans 1:20 Paul tells us that God’s invisible attributes, his eternal power, and the nature of his Godhead are clearly seen in the things he created. They so clearly reveal him, that it leaves the unbeliever without excuse for failing to give him the glory for all he made and has done.

Very specially, God made us humans.

The Bible teaches that God created man, male and female.

Adam was made from the “dust of the earth”. That means from the elements found in God’s physical creation: carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, calcium, iron and many other basic elements. He was not made from “lower life forms” or from any other already living things.

Eve was made from the genetic material of Adam. Some translations say from “his side”. But it’s not such a precise term in the inspired Hebrew text. The fact is, all humans come from that one act of creation by God.

God’s word says he made us in his own image.

The next part of the catechism question clarifies what this means:

Question 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.

We were made with the ability to know things as God reveals them in nature, by providence, through his word, and in our conscience. We were made without rebellion in our hearts. There was no sin in either Adam or Eve when he made them. They were personally innocent, righteous, and holy.

Of course that changed when the first humans fell into sin. Adam represented us all. In Adam we lost our righteousness, and our ability to gain it back by our own efforts. So in Christ the Messiah we gain it back by being clothed in his righteousness.

This is the gospel, the good news you possess to tell your neighbors, those you meet every day. The damaged image of God in the lost troubled heart can be repaired by faith in him. We add nothing to that faith. It is by God’s grace and power that we come to him.

The same God who displays his power all around us can transform us. Psychology, medicine, social activism, politics, financial comfort miserably fail when divorced from the power of the gospel. They might make us feel more comfortable in our sin, but they cannot change our hearts. But a sincere faith in the Living Savior can and does.

And when God made us, he gave us dominion over the creatures.

This is our human duty and privilege. We are commanded to responsibly use what God put here to sustain us, and to improve circumstances in our communities and homes.

Today this duty is horribly distorted and challenged. Some abandon every concern for using God’s resources responsibly. They waste food, leave discarded trash around, and kill for sport rather than for food. They compromise the safety of others for their own selfish advancement.

Others go to the opposite extreme. They raise creation up over humanity. They would rather see humans suffer than to make use of what God provided. They put humans who were created in God’s image on the same level as creatures here for their provisions. They can’t be consistent with their evolutionary assumptions. While they protect snails and quails, they without hesitation know they need to fight to the death against bacteria and viruses. They often ignorantly use up natural resources faster than most while saying they are saving the earth. They ignore real science while choosing only the measurements that support their cause.

We are neither to abuse nor to abandon our responsibility. God commanded us to represent his dominion over the earth, and over all he put on it.

We have a mandate as the special creatures God made us to be.

We are here to appreciate his revealed glory in all of creation. We need to take time to appreciate its intricate wonder and complexity. We need to remind others about who made it all, and why he made it.

We are assigned the job of caring for creation as those charged with dominion over it. We are to use it wisely for our provisions, while respecting the needs of others around us. We are to worship the Creator at all times, day and night, as we consider its majestic wonder, and while we live in the humble service of the Savior, the one who died in our place to enable us to see the truth and the glory of it all.

Don’t let any day, specially any Sabbath Day, slip by without filling it with worshipful prayer and appreciation for all God made, and with humble thanks that he made you and those you love.

(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

God’s Perfect Plan

Index of Lessons in the Westminster Shorter Catechism

God’s Perfect Plan

Video presentation of this lesson
(Westminster Shorter Catechism Q:7-8)
by Bob Burridge ©2011

God is greater than anything any of us can comprehend. What we experience in our day-to-day lives is the discovering of his prefect and eternal plan.

Since God is so much more than we can know, there are things that happen which we cannot possibly explain. In our fallen condition people try to explain things anyway. They add their foolish guesses and theories. They either reject the parts of God’s word they don’t like, or they try to explain them away by adding things from their own imaginations. This generates the confusion about God which is common today.

The Naturalist tries to explain what happens in our world by imagining that Nature itself is the mother of us all. To deal with what they would like reality to be, they deify everything, but that really means they deify nothing. If everything is God, then he isn’t anything more than everything else.

They use different versions of Evolution Theory to explain where we came from. This makes humans to be no more important than dust, rocks, beetles, or bacteria. To the Naturalist there is no plan, no certainty, no hope for the future. This lets them reject the idea that there are things that are really sinful or wrong. They condemn only what stands in the way of their personal peace and prosperity.

The Fatalist believes that everything that happens is inevitable. The religious fatalist imagines some kind of god or universal power moving all things along, but it’s all impersonal. We’re just actors following a script. Our thoughts and circumstances move us to do what’s been written out for us.

The material fatalist believes that the forces of nature and chance can only go one way. We do what the chemicals in our brains get stimulated to do by our circumstances. Our lives are simply a play written by impersonal cosmic forces.

In both types of fatalism life is meaningless. There is no morality or evil, just our wrong ideas about it all. There can be no personal responsibility. Human feelings are just hormonal reactions. There is no reason to sorrow or to be glad, except as it effects us personally.

As one Fatalist once put it, man is like a water-beetle caught in a torrent of water. He may struggle, or he may let himself be swept along in peace simply accepting his doom.

Others see God as a powerful being who’s there to the help us, but who doesn’t control everything. To them, God is big, but he is not infinite. They limit God by imagining that human choices are beyond his control. To them he is like a superhero, or the pagan deities of ancient Greece and Rome. They imagine that if we all pray hard enough, God will change his plan to grant our wishes. They must think that their wisdom about what should happen is better than God’s wisdom.

God hasn’t left us to wonder and guess about his plan with such foolish theories. In his revealed word, preserved for us in the Bible, he tells us what we need to know about his plan and our responsibilities. There God assures us that he decrees all things and isn’t surprised by anything. It also tells us that we are real persons, responsible for our own thoughts and actions.

This all fits together once we understand how God explains it. We need to let the Bible speak for itself. There is great comfort for those who trust in the True God. We can rest confidently in the things the way they really are, instead of just how we guess them to be.

In the Westminster Shorter Catechism, questions 7 and 8 summarize what the Bible says about God’s control of all things.

Question 7. What are the decrees of God?
Answer. The decrees of God are his eternal purpose according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.

Question 8. How doth God execute his decrees?
Answer. God executeth his decrees in the works of creation and providence.

First: It reminds us that God’s plan is eternal.

If God’s plan is eternal, then it had no beginning. There was never a time before his plan was formed. It’s always been there in his mind. From all eternity God’s intent and all that carries it out was complete and perfect. Psalm 33:11 says, “The counsel of the Lord stands forever, The plans of His heart to all generations.”

That is hard for us to understand. Our plans all have a time when they are formed in our minds. We gather the information we need. We think about it. Only then a plan emerges.

With God, his plan has always been there in its complete and unchangeable form. There’s no information he didn’t always know. He didn’t need to do research to get the facts. He didn’t need to make up contingency plans. There’s no need for a “Plan B”. As we’ve seen in our earlier study, God is eternal and unchangeable. There was never a time when any part of God’s plan was uncertain or incomplete.

Before anything was created, God knew all things as they would ever be. He designed everything to show his glory in the best way possible.

Second: God’s plan is the expression of his own will.

God’s decrees are his own eternal and unchanging intentions. Revelation 4:11 says, “Worthy art Thou, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for Thou didst create all things, and because of Thy will they existed, and were created.”

His plan wasn’t formed by advice or input from anything or anyone other than himself. Since the Bible says he knew all things before the foundation of the earth, nothing else existed when his plan was already and eternally fully formed. He has always known all things as they are and will ever be.

Some try to get around this by using Bible verses about God’s foreknowledge. They imagine God basing his plan upon what he saw would happen in the future. That can’t possibly be what those verses are talking about. It makes no sense to think that that the Eternal, Unchangeable God looked ahead to see what his creatures would do if he didn’t decree their actions, then decreed them from all eternity. So his decree was for what would happen if he didn’t decree it. The mind that wants to be independent of a Sovereign God can accept such self-contradictory ideas.

The word foreknowledge simply tells us that God knows with certainty before hand exactly how his plan will unfold. The Westminster Confession of Faith chapter 3, section 2 explains this when it says, “Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions, yet hath he not decreed anything because he foresaw it as future, …”

God doesn’t decide what to do based on what we would do. The Creator isn’t the slave of the creatures who make up history as they decide things. The Bible says it’s the other way around: Those who move history are moved by God. Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes.”

As Jesus taught us, even our prayers are to be presented humbly. We say, “Thy will be done …” We do not say, “God, you have your plan, but please abandon it and do it my way. It’s better.”

Third: The purpose of God’s decree is to promote his own glory.

That’s the continuing purpose of all Creation in Psalm 19:1-2, “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge.”

We looked at this more closely in our study of Catechism Question 1. As part of God’s creation we are each here “to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.”

The Apostle Peter gave a warning to those who teach God’s word. In his First Peter 4:11 he wrote, ” … that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, …”

Our prime duty here on earth is to carry out this purpose of our Creator. In 1 Corinthians 10:31 we’re told, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

Fourth: All of God’s plan, every part of it, is certain to come to pass.

God foreordained whatever comes to pass. We don’t say he Predestined it, because that word has to do with the destiny of our souls. Foreordination has to do with everything. There is nothing God didn’t include in his plan.

God’s perfect plans and infinite power come together to ensure us that all God determined to happen comes to pass exactly as he intended it. Since God is infinitely powerful, he is able to make all that he plans happen just as he wants. Jeremiah 32:17 says, “Ah Lord GOD! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee:”

He is able to do whatever he decrees will happen. And that’s exactly what he does. This absolute sovereignty of God is one of the most clear and repeated teachings of the Bible.

Psalm 115:3, “But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.”

Psalm 135:6, “Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, In heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps.”

Job 42:1-2, “… I know that Thou canst do all things, And that no purpose of Thine can be thwarted.”

There is nothing that can ever or will ever change or ruin God’s perfect plan for the ages. It is hard to understand the idea of a perfect and eternal plan that never changes. This is a high mystery to us finite and imperfect creatures. We can rarely accomplish our simplest of plans without having to make adjustments. With God, all he purposes to do — comes to pass without fail or amendment.

God’s decrees include everything. There is nothing in all of God’s universe that is independent from his decrees. Nothing surprises him and nothing is left out. He made all things to merge together precisely to declare his glory. Everything that takes place has been decreed by God for all eternity.

As time goes on our plans often change. We can’t possibly know in advance all the things that could derail our plans. We can’t anticipate human errors, circumstances, or natural disasters that might get in the way. We get new information and often have to admit that something can’t be done as we hoped.

Our information, and the way we make our decisions, are always imperfect and limited. We do the best we can to reduce the imperfections while knowing we can’t eliminate them all.

We need to keep in mind that knowing that God’s plan is certain isn’t the same as Fatalism. The Reformers, including John Calvin, made it clear that what the Bible teaches is nothing like Fatalism. Critics of the Bible often make the mistake of not understanding the difference.

We were created in God’s image as persons, not as machines. We act, and think, and choose. We alone are responsible for our sins. Even the good we do, our faith, repentance, and obedience are the work of God’s grace in us. He provides our abilities and opportunities. He gives life to our fallen hearts, turns us by his Holy Spirit, and gives us a new nature that impels us to want to do what he says is good.

Yet when God works in us by his grace, we come as persons made willing by Christ. We don’t repent and believe as machines or as rebels screaming and kicking against his redeeming love.

It is a wicked thing to believe that the loving work of our Sovereign God is just natural forces at work blindly.

One of the hardest things to understand
is the existence of evil in God’s perfect plan.

God did not create sin. It is not a created thing. Sin and evil do not exist on their own. They are not entities floating around somewhere in the universe. They only exist as attitudes or actions in created persons.

Sin is doing what God forbids, or failing to do what he commands. It is pure non-sense to say that God is the cause of anything against his own will and intention. Sin is not caused by God, and we should never blame him for it.

When the Bible says God caused “evil” there is a translation problem related to older forms of English. The Hebrew word translated as “evil” in some passages in the old King James Version is the Hebrew word רע (ra’) which means calamity or disaster. Sin, or moral evil uses the Hebrew word חטא (khatah) which is not said to be caused by God.

Obviously God’s plan allowed or permitted evil to exist. This is the way the Bible puts it in passages like Acts 14:16, God, “… in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways.”

God allowing sin, does not make it to be good. God may decree evil, and even restrain it at times, but he is never the one who causes it. In Genesis 20:6 we see that God restrained Abimelech from sinning with Abraham’s wife Sarah. There it says, “… I also withheld you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her.”

When the sons of Jacob sold Joseph into slavery, it was their evil, but God had a purpose in it. In Genesis 50:20 Joseph explained how God fit into what they did. “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, …” Evil condemns the rebel, but God employs it to reveal more of his glorious perfections.

One of the clearest passages that helps us understand this difficult concept is Acts 2:23. It talks about the crucifying of Jesus, which was obviously both a wicked thing and something God planned from all eternity to redeem his people. Acts 2:23 speaks of Jesus, “… being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death;”

On the one hand it says the crucifying of Jesus was decreed by God as part of his plan. He foresaw it as something he meant to happen. On the other hand, this verse clearly shows that it was a lawless and wicked thing to do. It leaves those who did this responsible for what they did. They did it willingly, not as machines, or as mere actors forced to play out a script.

God uses the evil he permits men to do, so that it furthers his plan. He has a purpose in those who are left in their sins, and in those who are saved by Christ. Romans 9:22-23 is very clear when it says, “What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory,”

So evil is part of God’s plan, but it is caused by the willing rebellion of fallen persons. They sin because they want to, not because they are forced to do something they do not want to do.

Fifth: God puts his decree into action for us to see
by his works of creation and providence

In Creation God made everything he wanted to put into his universe and into our world. Everything God made serves a purpose — together they display his glory: Psalm 19 begins, “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge.” Colossians 1:16 tells us that all things were created for God’s purposes.

All we see, all we use, all we are — everything is part of the revealing of his plan day-by-day. By his providence God directs all things toward his perfect purpose. What we call laws of science are really the principles God embedded in what he made. Colossians 1:17 says, “And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”

The events of history, even those done in hatred toward God, turn out to further his plan. Even the deceit of Adam and Eve by Satan in Eden was use by God. The greatest attack became the greatest story ever told.

God uses sin to reveal his justice, to show us how much we need our Redeemer, to display a love so great that the greatest gift was given to overcome the worst rebellion.

The things that happen to you every day are there for the same reason: to display God’s glory. The beautiful sunrise, the friends and family who are there to comfort and love us, the children and elderly who need us to care for them, the opportunities we have to worship, they should all stir us to see God’s hand at work in and through his redeemed people. We have opportunities to practice the presence of Christ in our hearts when faced with flat tires, rude people who show disrespect for us, pathogens that make us sick, homework, bills, taxes, manipulations of politicians, and devastating storms.

The decrees of God are a great comfort to God’s people.

Nothing is out of control. Everything fits into God’s holy purpose and glorious plan. As Paul tells us in Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

This is the symphony of God’s World made known to us in God’s Word, and made knowable to us undeserving sinners by God’s Redeeming Grace in Christ.

God’s promise is that he knows what he’s doing, even though we don’t yet understand it all. He is truly Lord over all things and over all the beings he made. That’s why even in a time of horrible tragedy and suffering, Job had the courage to say in Job 13:15, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him…”

This is the assurance we can give to our children, and can draw upon ourselves when we face the unknown. It is our comfort as we go to bed at night, and wake up to a new day in the morning. We pray to God as David did in Psalm 3:5-6, “i lay down and slept; I awoke, for the LORD sustains me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people Who have set themselves against me round about.”

This is not just a useless intellectual exercise about large scale movements of history. It means that everything that happens day-by-day in each of our lives is the unfolding of God’s perfect plan.

Our duty is to look for our opportunities for obedience in every situation that comes along. Are you sick? Have you been in an accident? Maybe you received a good promotion at work, or your car has broken down again. Perhaps someone broke into your house and took your things. Whether you are blessed or attacked, surprised or bored: in all things you are moving through God’s plan as it unfolds.

The Bible tells us about God’s power and decrees so we can know we are safe all the time, and so we can honor him through it all. This gives us a different perspective. It is as if the lights were turned on to get rid of the darkness.

Whether you rest beside the still waters, or walk through the valley of the shadow of death, the Shepherd who made all things and who upholds all things is there with you. He is not only on the path with you, he made the path, and he made you.

Trust him, even when things happen that can’t seem to be good in your limited understanding, specially then. See each challenge as your orders of the day. Learn to move dynamically, responding to what happens with godly obedience. Rest with childlike confidence in the promises of God which cannot fail.

(The Bible quotations in this article are from the New King James Bible unless otherwise noted.)

Loved By the Triune God

Index of Lessons in the Westminster Shorter Catechism

Loved By the Triune God

Video presentation of this lesson
(Westminster Shorter Catechism Q:5-6)
by Bob Burridge ©2014

One of the most comforting things God tells us in his word, is that he not only made and rules over all things, but also that he dearly loves those he gathers to himself as his eternal family. In contrast with that, the most troubling fact in God’s word is that some in the world he made became his enemies. There was a very ancient rebellion in heaven, and it moved to earth were humanity was infected.

Since that time man’s ideas about God have been horribly confused and distorted. Pagan deities range from vague cosmic forces to comic book super-hero gods. In Ancient Greece and Rome, new god’s were conceived by adulterous super-gods. There were battles for supremacy, jealousies, and divine deceit. They were modeled after the image of fallen humanity.

The God revealed in the Bible is totally different. Since the Creator is obviously totally different from his creation, and since he is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in all his attributes as a Triune being, we should expect that our Heavenly Father would be difficult to describe. We are finite, temporal, and changeable in all our attributes. There is nothing in all of creation that is by its nature just like God.

One of the hardest concepts to grasp,
is that God exists eternally as a Trinity.

This is one of the teachings of the Bible that is admittedly not easy to understand. Attempts to compare the Trinity with things we’re familiar with will always confuse the issue. The Bible never gives us a direct comparison of the Trinity with created things. We should not do that either. We should not expect God’s basic nature to fit into our limited minds and human experience.

It s not that the truth of the Trinity is unclear in Scripture. It is one of the most universal doctrines of Christianity. Virtually all who call themselves Christian believe there is One God in Three Persons. It is the central issue in the Creeds that came from early church councils. There can’t be any doubt that the Bible teaches this basic fact. Not all understand it the same way though. Our fallen nature is inclined to confuse what God is by mixing it with non-biblical assumptions.

The idea of the Trinity was not invented by the early church councils. They met to correct serious errors about God’ nature, and to replace them with what the Bible actually teaches. The realty of the Trinity is drawn from Scripture only.

The Redeemed are saved by the work of Jesus Christ who is God the Son, and are indwelt by God the Holy Spirit. Jesus taught us to pray to God our Father who lives eternally in heaven. We pray through Jesus to the Father by the power of the Holy Spirit. We call upon God the Son to save us, and to intercede for us to the Father. We ask the Holy Spirit to fill us to make us able to do what God calls us to do. These are daily concerns so we ought to know the nature of the One to whom we’re praying, and in whom we are placing our trust.

Knowing what God is, is important not only to theologians, Elders and Pastors, but to every believer who prays, and rests in his faithfulness, forgiveness and promises. What’s more, it is exciting to learn about the One who made us and everything else, and to be assured that we are loved by this Triune Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism puts it in very simple and plain language.

Question 5. Are there more Gods than one?
Answer. There is but one only, the living and true God.

Question 6. How many persons are there in the Godhead?
Answer. There are three persons in the Godhead: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.

First, it’s clear that there is only one God.

One of the oldest and most basic creeds of the Bible is found in Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!”

Sometimes this verse is called the Shma’ because that’s the Hebrew word that begins this verse. Shma’ (שׁמע) means “hear what comes next”. It is like our modern expression, “Listen up!” This word draws our attention to what follows. It marks it as a very important fact. The word LORD in this verse is the Hebrew word for “Jehovah”, YHVH (יהוה) It says, “Jehovah is One”. He is singular, the only God who ever could be.

The First Commandment is found in Exodus 20:3, “You shall have no other gods before Me.”

There are many other places where this is directly stated in the Bible. It is hardly a truth that needs defense. No matter what people might personally believe, the Scriptures are clear that there is only one God. He is the Creator and Sustainer of all that is. He is the living and true God. Nothing could be more clear.

The idea of the Trinity does not teach that there are “three gods”.

Second, it’s clear that God eternally exists as three persons.

This doesn’t mean that God is three different people as if they meet as a committee. The word “person” has a very technical meaning here.

Also, it’s not that God just shows himself in three different ways at times, as if sometimes he acts like a Father, sometimes as a Son and other times as a Spirit. There is a separation that is different than anything else in the whole created universe.

There is no single verse in the Bible that states this fact of the Trinity. Some uninformed defenders of this doctrine sadly point to 1 John 5:7 as a proof text for the Trinity. The old King James Version has, “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.”

This verse was never used as a proof text of the Trinity by the early church councils. The Trinitarian part of that verse was added much later when a note in the margin of a Latin Bible was copied and translated into the later Greek text. It is not there in any of our ancient Greek texts.

If the Bible is taken as one unified word of God, it becomes very plain and obvious. There is One God only, but the one called the Father, the one called the Son, and the one called the Holy Spirit are each described as having all the attributes of this one true God.

First, God eternally exists as the Father.

Not many have questioned that the title of “Father” is appropriate for God. The Bible often uses this word to describe his care for his children. God oversees all of his creation as a father does over his own household. God is Father over all as the Creator and as Sovereign Head, but he’s specially the Spiritual Father to all who are redeemed in Christ. We’re called his children because, by grace, he made us part of his covenant family. Jesus prayed to him as his Father in the prayers recorded for us in Scripture.

God also exists eternally as the Son.

It is tragic that many focus so much on the human side of Jesus that they lose the wonder of his eternal deity. Our Savior was fully a human, but he is always also fully God.

John 1 tells us that he is not a created being. He is the Creator, the one who made all things. He tells us that the Son is eternal, and has been with the Father forever. This means his sonship has nothing to do with his being fathered by God in the sense of having a beginning. It has to do only with the mysterious relationship the persons of the Trinity share. Colossians 1:16 says this about Jesus, “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.”

Jesus showed submission to the Father’s will, which was never different than his own desires. Submission doesn’t mean he’s inferior to the Father. This is true even in human families as God set them up. The wife may be subject to her husband, but is never said to be inferior to him. Husbands, wives and all Christians are to be in subjection one to another (Ephesians 5:21). And the children are to be in subjection to their parents, but they’re never inferior to them. Jesus as a human child was subject to his parents as Luke 2:51 tells us, but he was never inferior to them.

We sometimes get the distorted idea that just because someone is given the responsibility of leadership, he is better than those he leads. Nothing could be further from the Biblical picture of headship, even within the Trinity.

Not only is God the Son the eternal Creator, who is in every way truly and fully God, he is also directly identified with the covenant name of God, Jehovah ( יְהוָ֥ה ). Joel 2:32 tells us that whoever calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved. Acts 2:21 applies this verse directly to Jesus, and in Acts 4:12 it says that there is no other name by which we’re saved but Jesus.

In Isaiah 43:10 we’re told ” ‘you are my witnesses,’ declares Jehovah”, and in Acts 1:8 it says that we are to be witnesses of Jesus to all the world.

John the baptist is said in John 1:23 to fulfill Isaiah 40:3 as he prepared the way for Jesus. In that verse in Isaiah it says he (John) would prepare the way for Jehovah.

Isaiah 43:11 says there is no Savior besides Jehovah. In Acts 4:12 it says that salvation only comes by Jesus Christ who is often called our Savior.

There are many other references just like these. What is represented by the name Jehovah is also represented by the name Jesus. He is revealed in the Bible as the eternal God, the Creator, and the only Savior.

Jesus does things that only God can do. Many times during his earthly ministry, Jesus forgave individuals for their sins. He performed miracles and cast out demons by his own authority. We are told to pray to him and through him to God the Father.

Many verses directly tell us that Jesus Christ is the one true God. Jesus was called “Immanuel” in Matthew 1:23. The quote is from Isaiah 7:14. “Immanu-El” (עמנו אל) is a Hebrew expression which means, “God with us”.

John 1 refers to Jesus as the Word, and tells us that “the word was God.”

Jesus made it clear too, that he is nothing less than the Eternal God who made all things. Just before his arrest, He prayed to the Father in John 17:5 saying, “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.”

There can be no doubt. The one we love as our Savior and Good Shepherd, is the one eternal God, the Sovereign Creator of all that is.

The Holy Spirit is also fully God.

Genesis 1 tells us that the Spirit of God moved upon the waters during the world’s creation. Several places in the New Testament refer to God the Holy Spirit having been active all through time.

When the Apostle Paul explained his mission in Rome, he quoted Isaiah 6 and said in Acts 28:25, “The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers.” Since it was God who spoke through the prophets, the Holy Spirit is obviously God.

Lying to the Holy Spirit was called lying to God in Acts 5:3-4.

Titus 3:5 calls our regeneration to life the “renewing by the Holy Spirit.” In other passages he is also clearly the one who renews the fallen human heart.

Since the Holy Spirit does what only God can do, he is part of the eternal Trinity, and He lives within the heart of every believer as the eternal Creator and Lord.

There are many passages that bring all three persons
of the Trinity together as the One God.

In John 15:26 Jesus our great Savior promised, “… when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.”

Together the three persons share in: creation, preservation, regeneration, judgment, revelation, ancient miracles, and the divine ministry to the saints. They all receive worship, honor and glory. Individually they each communicate with one another and reveal one another to man. They all play an important part in restoring us to eternal life in the home of the Lord, and in encouraging us while we live here on the earth.

This high mystery of the Doctrine of the Trinity is a living encouragement
to all creation, and to us who are his children by grace.

The Savior who redeemed us, who intercedes for us, is actually God. The Holy Spirit who is sent to live in our hearts and to guide us in our beliefs and choices is not just a powerful angel or comforting concept. He is fully God. And of course we can each speak directly to God as our own Father.

In the vanity of human religion confused since Eden, God is little more than some far off ethereal concept, or a super-human deity confined to struggles on some Mount Olympus. But to we who are redeemed he is the Living God, Creator and Lord over all things. By his unfathomable love and grace, we are his children.

There’s no desire so strong in the heart of any creature, material or spiritual, that can hinder or change in any way the will of the Father. There’s no evil that can attack us which isn’t already conquered by the victory of Christ. There is no trouble, lie, or doubt that can infest our souls that isn’t overcome by the power of the Holy Spirit who lives in our hearts.

No power on all the earth or in the space of the universe around us is greater than or even equal with the infinite power of our Triune God.

(Note: The Bible quotations in this article are from the New King James Bible unless otherwise noted.)

“There are three persons in the Godhead: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.” (WSC 6)