Previous article in this series: August 2018, p. 444.
God created all things
This good and almighty God created all things, both visible and invisible, by His co-eternal Word, and preserves them by His co-eternal Spirit, as David testified when he said: “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all their host by the breath of his mouth” (Ps. 33:6). And, as Scripture says, everything that God had made was very good, and was made for the profit and use of man. Now we assert that all things proceed from one beginning.
The doctrine of creation is set forth in chapter 7 of the Second Helvetic Confession. The God of providence (SHC, chapter 6) is, first of all, the God of creation. The chapter begins with the fundamental truth that God is the Creator. God has “created all things, both visible and invisible.” From the outset, the Reformed faith has the answer to the false teaching of evolution. All things, whether belonging to the physical world or to the world of spirits, have the origin of their existence in God, not in chance or fate. Not only does the SHC oppose the teaching of evolution in its opening statement, but by its concluding sentence of the first paragraph as well, in which it asserts that all things “proceed from one beginning.” All things have a real and historical “beginning,” in fact, “one beginning.” Evolution denies any “beginning,” certainly “one beginning,” of all things. It asserts instead that matter is eternal. This is the necessary, bold, and clearly foolish assertion of the evolutionist.
God the Creator is the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Noteworthy in connection with the confession of the truth of creation, is the SHC’s testimony of the truth of the Trinity. The “good and almighty God created all things,” but He did so “by His co-eternal Word, and preserves them by His co-eternal Spirit.” That all three Persons of the Godhead created and were all alike involved in the work of creation is testimony to their deity and co-eternality. In support of the assertion that God triune created, Heinrich Bullinger, the author of the SHC, appeals to Psalm 33:6. Along with the other Reformers, he understood Psalm 33:6 to be referring to the united activity of the three Persons of the Godhead. “The Lord” is God the Father, the First Person. “The word of the Lord” is God the Son, the Second Person, who is expressly called in Scripture “the Word,” as in John 1. “The breath of his [God’s] mouth,” is the Holy Spirit, the Third Person. “Spirit” is literally “breath” or “wind.”
Since creation is a divine work, in creating all things, God shows that He is God—the true God and the only God. He alone creates. And since creation is the work of the three Persons, at the very dawn of history the Creator showed that He is the triune God.
That which God created “was made very good.” The SHC calls attention to the fact that this is the express teaching of Scripture: “as Scripture says.” This is what Scripture says repeatedly in Genesis 1, as in verses 4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, and 31. That God created everything good means especially two things. First, it means that everything was made to serve the unique purpose for which it was created. Each creature, in its own unique place, according to its own distinct design, in its own way, occupies the place for which God created it. Second, that everything was made good means that the original creation was morally upright and pure. It was altogether free from any imperfection or sin.
For the profit and use of man
Significantly, the SHC teaches that God created all things “for the profit and use of man.” This in no way is intended to deny that the ultimate purpose of God with what He had created was the glory of His own name. That certainly is true and, from the viewpoint of the SHC, goes without saying. That is Revelation 4:11, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”
But this does not take away from the fact that the proximate purpose of God was the “profit and use of man.” The truth of this is based, first of all, on the fact that man stands at the pinnacle of the earthly creation. As the apex of God’s creative activity, all creation stands in the service and for the profit of man. Secondly, man was created as the head of the earthly creation and given dominion over it—under God, of course. Because man stands in that position, it follows that the creation stands in his service, for his use and profit. That man is called “to have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth on the earth,” implies that all was made for man’s use and profit. Third, this is expressly the teaching of Genesis 1 and 2. In Genesis 1:29, God says to Adam, “Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed…and every tree.” The fact that in Genesis 2 God places the man in the Garden of Eden and calls him “to dress it and to keep it” implies that all within the garden was for man’s use and profit.
That God created all things for man’s use and profit follows from the fact that He created all things as our heavenly Father. There is nothing that delights a father so much as the proper use by his children of the gifts that he bestows upon them. The same is true of God our Father.
That God has created all things for man’s use and profit guards against two equally pernicious evils. First, it guards against the abuse of the creation. The creation is to be used, not abused. The Christian does not need the modern ecological movement to impress upon him his calling to be a good steward of the creation. The truth of creation and the purpose of God in creation impress this calling upon him. Second, the proper use of the creation guards against the evil of setting one’s heart on the things in the creation—worshiping the creature rather than the Creator. Our calling is to use the creation, not adore it.
Of angels and the devil
Among all creatures, angels and men are most excellent. Concerning angels, Holy Scripture declares: “Who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire” (Ps. 104:4). Also it says: “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” (Heb. 1:14). Concerning the devil, the Lord Jesus Himself testifies: “He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it” (John 8:44). Consequently we teach that some angels persisted in obedience and were appointed for faithful service to God and men, but others fell of their own free will and were cast into destruction, becoming enemies of all good and of the faithful.
Chapter 7 of the SHC calls special attention to the rational, moral creatures that God made: angels and men. This paragraph is devoted to the angels, both good and evil; a separate paragraph treats the creation of man.
In the beginning, all the angels were made good. When exactly they were created we are not informed in Scripture. There is reason to believe that they were created on the first day of the creation week. One indication of this is Psalm 104, which is quoted in this paragraph of the SHC. The various sections of Psalm 104 can be divided according to the successive days of the creation week. In the opening section, which includes verse 4, the psalmist speaks of the creation of the angels: “Who maketh his angels spirits.” That also harmonizes with certain passages of Scripture that speak of the angels beholding God’s creative work. That could be true only if they were created on the first day of the creation week. Job 38:6 and 7 teach that when God laid the foundations of the earth, “the morning stars [the angels] sang together, and all the sons of God [again, the angels] shouted for joy.”
Apart from when they were created, the clear teaching of Scripture is that the angels, like men, have been created by God. They, too, are creatures. Colossians 1:16 teaches that the Lord Jesus Christ created “all things…that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible.” Paul goes on to describe the various ranks of angels: “thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him.”
Although both men and angels are created by God, and although both are rational, moral creatures, there are significant differences between men and angels. One difference is that angels are spiritual (invisible) beings and men are physical (visible) creatures. Another thing is that there is no sexual differentiation among angels, that is, there are no male angels and no female angels. Closely related to this is the fact that there is no reproduction among the angels, but the (created) number of angels remains fixed. Neither is there apparently any aging, disease, or death among the angels, as there is in the world of man.
Elect and reprobate angels
Two important truths about the angels that Scripture teaches are affirmed in this paragraph of the SHC. First, not all the angels have remained in the uprightness of their original creation by God. Some angels “fell of their own free will and were cast into destruction.” This fall of the angels must have taken place prior to the Fall of man, since Satan comes as a wicked, fallen angel to tempt Adam and Eve. Based on what information Scripture affords us, it appears that the devil (Lucifer) led a number of the angels, likely one-third, in rebellion against God. Satan’s motivation was that he aspired to overthrow and replace God on the throne of the universe, the very temptation he presented to Adam and Eve in the garden. The interested reader can consult Isaiah 14:4-12-15, Ezekiel 28:1-10, and Revelation 12.
The second important truth is that, like the Fall of man, the fall of the angels was ordained by God. The Fall of man and the fall of the angels are included in the all-wise counsel of God. Scripture teaches that God’s decree of predestination, election and reprobation, includes the angels. In I Timothy 5:21, the apostle speaks of the “elect angels.” Election always implies reprobation. That there are elect angels implies that there are also reprobate angels. Jude says in Jude 6: “And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.”
Although there are elect and reprobate angels, God’s decree of predestination with regard to the angels is different than His decree with respect to human beings. With regard to human beings, they all fall into sin, but only a portion are delivered and restored—the elect. With regard to the angels, the elect angels never fell, whereas the reprobate angels fell and for them there is no possibility of deliverance. If there is a proper distinction between total and absolute depravity, this is the distinction. Total depravity applies to fallen human beings, some of whom are saved, whereas the fallen angels are absolutely depraved, inasmuch as there is no possibility of deliverance from their fallen state.
Thus, the good angels “persisted in obedience and were appointed for the faithful service to God and men.” But the evil angels who have fallen from their state of original righteousness, have “become enemies of all good and of the faithful.” The “good” and “faithful” are clearly good and faithful men, that is, the children of God. The devil and the demons are real and spiritual enemies of the good and faithful people of God. They are bent on our ruin, temporally and eternally. Because they are invisible, we cannot see them. But they are undoubtedly behind the temptations and persecution of the world. As Satan’s minions, they go about “seeking whom they may devour” (I Pet. 5:8). Hence, the exhortation: “Whom resist stedfast in the faith” (I Pet. 5:9a). And the assurance? “And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly” (Rom. 16:20).