And now, in conclusion, we must still call attention to a few elements in the text concerning the positive teaching of God’s Word concerning the creature of God, to wit, “that all creaturehood of God is good, and nothing to be rejected being received with thanksgiving, since it is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer.”
In these words Paul shows in a pithy and convincing way how demoniacal is that teaching which forbids marriage and commands men to abstain from meats.
Let us attempt to understand the teaching of Paul here. He is really not directly arguing for the fact “that every creature of God is good” from an academic standpoint! He is interested vitally in the question of such godliness which has not simply a form, but which has power to overcome the world by faith, and “subdue” every creature to the service of God. It is everything pro rege, for the King! That is the mystery of godliness which is great. God is revealed in the flesh.
It is an interesting fact that Paul indicates that the good use of the “creature” is not simply a matter which is possible and obtainable by the Christian, but that he teaches that the “good creature” was “created by Godin order that it be used by those who believe and acknowledge the truth” (verse 3b). The Greek here reads: ha ho Theos ektisen eis metaleempsin . . . tois pistois kai epegnookosi teen aleetheian. It was God’s purpose, His design (tis) that the creature be used with thanksgiving by the believers! The “truth” here referred to is the truth of God in Christ, the great Mystery of godliness over against the lie of the teaching of devils, which denies marriage and the use of food to the church. Thus they place themselves opposite to the very design of the Creator and Architect, the very Workmanship of God!
It is an interesting fact that the Greek term “metaleempsin” which in the King James Version “received,” making no distinction in the translation between the Greek “metaleempsin” and “lambanomenon.” However, the Holland (Staten vertaling) distinguishes the terms as follows: “nuttigen” and “genomen zijnde.” The German translation of Luther distinguishes the two terms in the Greek as follows: “su nehmen” and “empfangen.” The former in the German translation is a more active notion, the latter a more passive one. In the Holland the term “nuttigen,” to my mind, underscores the idea of having a part in, to profit by it. I believe that the Holland translation is very good. The term in Greek, according to Thayer’s Lexicon, means exactly: the act ofparticipation. Food and marriage were created not to be placed on the shelf, on the “Index”; they are not a redundant creation of God for which no legitimate and useful place can be found. It is the design of the Creator that these shall be participated in; they are for man’s benefit!
However, Paul states a certain limitation. And the limitation is not such, that, after all, it still is a question whether food and marriage are “good creature.” It is not simply according to the mores and the slogans: as long as one does not do too much! Paul is here not writing a “health book,” recommending moderation in all things. That we can leave to the moralists, and the cults. Paul is not writing a rule for man, as man, in the use of the creature. He is writing the rule of faith. He is writing for those who believe and know the truth! Hence, the limitation is stated as follows: “with thanksgiving.” Really, here we may quote Paul that he says, in, effect: “Whether therefore ye eat or ye drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” I Cor. 10:31.
This is a far cry from what is called “Cultural Mandate,” namely that man must subdue the earth, fill the earth, and thus bring out the potentialities of creation in science, art, industry, education. For that was not the design of God. The design of God in Creation and as stated in Genesis 1:26 was most closely interwoven in man’s being created in God’s image and likeness, in true knowledge, righteousness and holiness, that he might rightly know God His creator, heartily love Him, and live with Him in eternal blessedness, to praise and glorify Him!
God did not design and create the world in order that man should simply use the creature for his own “gladness of heart.” Truly thus the heathen, who were left to walk in their own ways, used the creature. They had joy and gladness of heart, but not thankfulness. They “participated” in the good creature with gladness of heart. A good rain shower gave them joy. They commented favorably about the weather—if it was good! They really never acknowledged the truth of the fact that the “whole creation groaneth.” That they could not reconcile with their idea of a “good” god! So they were neither patient in adversity nor thankful in prosperity. For faith in Fatherly providence and counsel is not a mixed article of faith, shared by wicked and righteous alike, but it is an article of our undoubted Christian faith! One must believe in “God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth” to be thankful, and to receive all as out of His fatherly hand! That the heathen did not do. And that also the modern man does not do. And all theories of Common Grace(Gemeene Gratie—A. Kuyper) do not alter this fact. For man is by nature wholly corrupt, unable to do any good and prone to all manner of evil (Rom. 3:10 ff.). Therefore, be it said again: man may have creaturely joy in the good creature of God, but he is not thankful!
Thankfulness is a gift of grace in those who believe and acknowledge the truth! It is the fruit of the Spirit; it belongs here to the first fruits of the Creation of God.James 1:18. It is the portion of those who have been brought forth by the word of truth!
The term in the text €œwith thanksgiving” is quite expressive. The fundamental notion of the preposition in the phrase referred to is “in the midst of.” The term in Greek is “meta!” Only when our participating is in the midst of thankfulness, in the midst of acknowledging the creator, our heavenly Father, is the design of God met with. Our act of participating must be accompanied with the act of faith of thankfulness. It must thus be placing all creaturehood upon the altar of dedication. Of the latter we have but a very, very small beginning. That will be perfectly accomplished in glory, when we are perfectly redeemed from all sin and vanity.
In heaven it will be very, very perfectly: using the creature with thanksgiving. That is the glory of our maker, who did not simply create the creatures of “food” and drink, but also created man so as to “receive it with thanksgiving.” For it should not be overlooked that the term to “create” is not a term which is used only for the first creation in Adam, the creation in the beginning, but that it is a term which describes God in His peculiar relationship toward His people, as their Redeemer and Savior. Thus we read in the Old Testament Scriptures that beautifully comforting word of Isaiah, “But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by name; thou art mine.” Is. 43:1. Notice the terms here which are used by our God: such terms are created: to form, to carve out, (bara in Heb.) and the term to form. Thus did the LORD do to us as, our God, our Redeemer. He claimed us as His own from death and hell. Or, again in Is. 43:15, where we read; “I am the Lord, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King.” It is really remarkable how closely the reality of God’s being the Holy One is connected with God’s making us, creating us unto a holy people. And the purpose of God in thus forming us (yatsar) is that we should be a thankful people, bringing the continual offering of thankfulness, and thus have fruit upon our lips. Thus we read in Is. 43:21: “This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise.”
In the New Testament Scriptures it is no different. Thus in Ephesians 2:10 we read: “For we are his workmanship,created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before prepared that we should walk in them.” Or, again, in this same chapter, verse 15, where we read: “for to make [‘create’ in Greek] in himself of twain one new man, so making peace.” Thus Paul in Ephesians 4:24speaks of the work of regeneration and conversion as our being “created in true knowledge and holiness.”
Hence, God did not simply make the creature, nor even simply make man, the first Adam, adaptable to receive with thanksgiving, but he has made those that “believe and know the truth” his new creation, adapted to fulfill the design of creation. For our God in Christ is not some “between-being,” some foolishly conceived-of “aeon,” but rather God Himself the Son, the Logos, by whom and through whom all things were made, so that when Christ came “into the world” he came to his own things, to save his own world!
And thus the creature is indeed good.
Nothing is to be rejected if received with thanksgiving.
Concerning the fact that the creature is good we must yet say a word. We would, first of all, say a word about the text. In the King James Version we read: “Everycreature of God is good.” Every has a distributive force; it looks at all the parts and thus comes to the whole. Now the Holland and the German text here are noteworthy. In the Holland we read: “Alle schepsel Gods is goed”; in the German we read: “Alle Kreatur Gottes ist gut.” Both the Holland and the German could have, following the King James Version, translated with “ieder” and “jeder” respectively. However, in not doing so they are correct. They are a faithful translation of the Greek text; they emphasize the whole of creation; they stand on the viewpoint of Gen. 1:31: “And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” Incidentally, it may interest the reader that in Genesis 1 we read six times: “and God saw that it was good,” while finally God took, as it were, an over-all view of creation and saw that it was “very good.” It was just as he had designed and contemplated it in His Counsel.
However, the mere fact that the creation is “good” is not yet its “sanctification.” The creature, apart from man, that is, from those who believe and know the truth, cannot be sanctified. If God had not formed man after his image and likeness there would be no one to “sanctify” the creature., Man no longer sanctifies the creature; he changed the glory of the incorruptible God into the likeness of the image of corruptible man, four-footed beasts, birds and creeping things. He refused to be thankful and to glorify God. He would not sanctify God. And now elect man is again created in Christ unto this very good work. For God is “revealed in the flesh . . . . believed on in the world, taken up in glory.” And in this Lord of glory, by faith, we now sanctify the creature. Paul reasons here from the general to the particular, of course. All creaturehood is sanctified, and, therefore, also bread and matrimony.
Only the thankful sanctify the creature!
Let it not be overlooked that thankfulness is more than feeling and sentiment. It means actually giving unto God His due, as this must needs come from the creature, whom He has formed after His own image. It is to acknowledge God in His works, wisdom, majesty, power, grace and mercy, in all things. To be priest, prophet and king of the Most High God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
And that is done in the chief part of thankfulness, prayer. And this prayer clings to the Word of God which sets ail in the service of God!