Did God then create man so wicked and perverse? By no means, but God created man good, and after his own image, in true righteousness and holiness, that he might rightly know God his Creator, heartily love him and live with him in eternal happiness to glorify and praise him.
Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 3, Question 6
A sorry testimonial.
Our Catechism is speaking of man, that is, of all mankind, of every man, woman, and child that ever lived or will live upon this earth. It speaks of you and me.
Our Book of Instruction makes bold to say that you and I are wicked and perverse, even so wicked, so very wicked and perverse. This conclusion our fathers drew from the previous Lord’s Day. There we made the confession that we cannot possibly keep God’s commandments, because we are prone by nature to hate God and our neighbor. That is strong language. I hate God. I hate my fellow man. I hate my family and friends. Why else would I ever speak evil of them, or draw them into sin? Hatred implies wickedness. We manifest that innate hatred in every desire of our hearts, in every thought that flashes through our minds, in every word we utter, in every motion of the body, in every deed we perform. As Scripture testifies of us, “There is none that doeth good; no, not one.” We grossly transgress all God’s commandments, and keep none of them, for our very nature is perverse. By nature we are heretics. We love the lie that dishonors God and glorifies man. Sin appeals to us, lures us, so that God’s “Thou shalt not” arouses the lion in us, the desire to do it because it is wrong. Children are like that, consciously choosing the path of sin. Young people and grown-ups are like that, ready always to condone their evil deeds. I search my soul and see that wicked, perverse nature that opposes God and defies all authority. Yes, even while by grace I will the good, I stiIl find myself doing that which is evil. “O wretched man.”
A leading question.
As this sixth question is formulated, “Did God then create man so wicked and perverse?” it is a leading question that requires a negative answer. That is obvious from the word ‘then.’ I can appreciate that little word ‘then’ in this question. Otherwise the question would be sheer blasphemy. Imagine! “Did God create man so wicked and perverse?” Perish the thought. Can there be unrighteousness with God? Can we lay the blame of our sinfulness on the Holy One? Let no man ever say that. Yet I can understand that the fathers put this question to us, for persistently the thought arises in our sinful souls, “Why is there so much misery in the world?” or, “Why am I conceived and born in sin?” or, “Do I deserve all this present misery?” and thus on and on ad infinitum. What right have we, mere specks of dust, to bring God to trial before man? What right have we to question the wisdom and power of the Most High? God is just in all His ways and works. Let all the earth be silent before Him.
The word ‘then’ makes all the difference in this first question. The result is that this question requires a negative answer. Our fathers had their own good reasons for formulating this question as they did. First, they wanted to show us by way of contrast how wonderfully we are made. Second, they wished to point out our exalted position in paradise, in order that we may realize how deeply we are fallen. Third, they wanted us to see that the accountability of our sins lies entirely with us. The accusing finger of God’s law points directly at us. So that, finally, we may experience that only comfort in life and death, that we belong to Jesus Christ, in Whom is all our salvation, in order that we may praise and glorify our Maker forever.
What holy amazement must have flooded the soul of Adam in that first conscious moment when he viewed paradise in all its splendor. His eyes beheld the beauty, his ears snatched up the music, all his senses were stirred by the marvels of his home so painstakingly prepared for him. For the past six days the Almighty had called the things that were not as though they were. On the first day of all days God caused an unformed mass to appear, much like a batch of dough, out of which every earthly creature would be brought forth. By the word of His power God caused the light to radiate upon the earth in such a way that there was at once evening and morning, night and day. The second day the broad expanse of the heavens were spread out, as a scroll that was rolled open. On Wednesday, so to speak, God caused the dry land to appear, soon decked with grass, vegetables, flowers, shrubs, and trees. On the fourth day our Maker caused the sun to shine in the heavens, and caused the moon and stars to be the guardians of the night. On the fifth day the Almighty brought forth from the waters fish that darted through the seas, lakes, and streams, and birds which filled the air with activity and song. On Friday animals of every sort were brought forth from ‘the earth to make their home in the garden. Last of all, the crown of the earthly creation appeared, looked around, was filled with holy wonder, and must have shouted, “My God, how great Thou art!”
It appears to me that we shall undergo a similar experience when we step out of this vale of tears into the heavenly Home of Father, where our mansion awaits us. That experience will again be ours when in that great Day of days God makes all things new, and we shall see Him face to face. We will burst forth with exuberant praise to glorify His adorable Name forever.
We are told in Genesis 2, that Jehovah, the Almighty (the Lord God) formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, whereby man became a living soul. On the one hand, there was a certain close relationship between man and the animal. Both were created on the sixth day. Both are referred to as living souls, that is, creatures that breathe and move about by their own volition. There is a certain attraction of man to the animal, and of the animal to man, as is still evident, for example, in the dog and the horse. On the other hand, there is a vast difference between the two, so that man could never have evolved out of the animal. First, the creation of man is a distinct act of God. God speaks as triune God at this momentous occasion. Each said, as it were, “I would make man.” In unison of spirit they say, “Let us make man in our likeness.” Second, while Godmade the animals, He formed man as a masterpiece of skilled workmanship, destined for a place in the new creation. Each man is an individual, a distinct person down to his finger prints and the tone of his voice. Third, God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. Man consists of soul and body. While the life of the animal is in its blood, man’s body is subject to death, but his soul enters eternity, either heaven or hell. He was created fit to be image bearer, bearer of the image of God. The animal stood with its head to the ground, expecting its existence from the ground, but man stood erect with his face lifted heavenward. He had a regal bearing. His eyes were the windows of his soul. His face bore the individual stamp of his person, gave expression to his inner feelings. He could think, reason, plan and devise. He could experience strong emotions of love, joy, blessedness. He could give expression to his thoughts and feelings by his ability to speak, by the skillful dexterous use of his hands, and by the motions of his body. Along with all this, he actually bore the image and likeness of God. He was created in God’s image to know God, love Him and serve Him. It was his joy, his life, to devote himself with his whole being in love to God. In one word, he was good, that is, he could serve the purpose for which he was created. He was wonderfully made.
Adam’s exalted position.
Our Catechism teaches us that Adam was created after God’s image in true righteousness and holiness. Whereupon it adds, “that he might rightly know his Creator.” Scripture speaks of the image of God as consisting of all three elements, true knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. Adam knew God intuitively. Ha knew that God was the Almighty Creator who still upheld all things by His almighty power. He saw God’s perfections in the individual creatures. He knew God as his God, his sovereign Friend. Adam loved God. He heard the whole creation, from the broad expanse of the heavens to the small insect singing the song of creation. His soul joined in singing the praises of his Maker. Adam was devoted to God as God’s friend-servant, employing the whole creation in serving his God. He was God’s prophet, but also God’s priest, and at the same time God’s king amidst the earthly creation.
Adam was lord over all he surveyed. Every creature served him. The streams quenched his thirst, the fruit of the trees was his food, the animals came at his beck and call. There was a perfect harmony between every creature and its king, a closer relationship than we can imagine today.
At the same time Adam consecrated himself with all creation to his God. When God filled in the one lack in his life by bringing Eve to him as his helper, his life was complete. As husband and wife they reflected the covenant life of intimate fellowship that they experienced in their communion with God. As they communicated with one another, they communicated with God. This was their very life, expressing itself in its fulness when they walked with God in the cool of day. Devoted to God, they were also responsible to Him. As God’s creation they were called to love the Lord their God with their whole being continuously, positively by taking care of the garden, negatively by refusing to eat of the forbidden tree. They were accountable to no one but God, yet they were entirely accountable to Him. And well may we add, rightly so! For God is GOD.
I have been speaking repeatedly of Adam; our Catechism speaks of man. You will notice that our fathers accept without any question the fact that Adam was created as our first father, the root of the entire human race, and at the same time our representative head. Never may we deny that Scriptural truth. Never may we question the justice of God in making Adam our representative head in paradise. We simply accept that and take it for granted, as our fathers did.
It also becomes evident to us, that our first parents were created fallible. Although they were created good and upright, they could fall. Adam and Eve could become unfaithful to their covenant God by eating of the forbidden tree. They could disobey God’s command, fall away from God as rebels against Him. Their love could turn to hatred against God and their neighbor. Their very nature could become wicked and perverse.
As we know, Adam did fall and die. Because Adam stood in such an exalted position as king of the earthly creation he could fall into depths of spiritual servitude; a slave to sin, in the bondage of death. Because Adam was our representative head and our first father, we all died in him. Since we are now conceived and born in sin as part of the fallen human race, there is, as far as we are concerned, no escape from this present death. God is just in condemning us to hell.
Finally, God in His holy Word shows us the only possible way of salvation. What is impossible with man is possible with God. (God Himself brings the perfect sacrifice for the sins of His people by the death of His own dear Son on the cross. The wonder of grace that grows richer every day is the fact that we are “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.”
(Eph. 2:10) Soli Deo Gloria!