The Apostles’ Creed (6)

Herman Veldman is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.

We concluded our preceding article with the observation that we must believe in God, the Father, Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. No sinner can or will or can will to accept a general, well-meaning offer of salvation (almost universally proclaimed and taught today). God must speak as He alone can speak and as He spoke when He created the heavens and the earth. Indeed, I believe, I mustbelieve in God, the Father, Almighty, the Maker of heaven and of earth.

Then I believe, I must believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son, my Lord. This too is absolutely necessary. As my almighty Father, He must reveal Himself unto me through Jesus Christ, in the way of the incarnation, suffering and death and the cross, hell, resurrection, and ascension at the right hand of God. There is no salvation except in the way of the full and perfect satisfaction of God’s righteousness and justice. That justice of God must be satisfied. God is holy and just and cannot deny Himself. And this full and perfect satisfaction cannot be accomplished except by our Lord Jesus Christ, as God’s only begotten Son. God alone can accomplish it. Indeed, I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son, my Lord.

And this must be climaxed by the fact that this almighty Father must sanctify me in and by the Holy Spirit. He must dwell within me, operate within me almightily. Only then can I, will I, believe, trust in Him, love that alone living, triune God, the alone praise-worthy and adorable God, now and for evermore. God is one and He is three, the covenant God of my eternal salvation. He is the Object of my faith.

We now conclude our articles on Our Faith in the Triune God by calling attention to the significance of this doctrine.

God is the living God. As far as the idea of life is concerned, life is not only action, but it is related action. This is true of all life around us. There is no life in solitude, in loneliness. In the plant world, life is the adaptation of each plant, not only to be active, but to be active in connection with other plants, as the late Rev. Hoeksema explains in his commentary of the Heidelberg Catechism. Plants affect each other. This is also true in the world of animals. We know that animals mate and associate with each other. And the same applies, of course, to the world of men. Man is essentially a social being. Men (and women) must exercise fellowship with one another.

How true this is of the Lord! God is not only the God of purest action, of power and wisdom and love and holiness and goodness and truth. But He is the Triune God, the Tri-Personal God, the Father- Son-Holy Spirit in the sphere of infinite and eternal perfection, Who, as the Triune God, lives and enjoys forever and ever the relationship of perfect love and harmony. Hence, God is a covenant God. He therefore truly lives within Himself. And as the living God He is surely Self-sufficient. He is in need of none or anything beside Himself. In Himself He knows and is known, He loves and is loved, He adores and is adored, He glorifies and is glorified—He is indeed the living God.

And what is the significance of this? It is the basis for all true religion. God Himself is a covenant God. A covenant as concluded among men may be an alliance or a pact or an agreement. Among men nations voluntarily enter with one another into a covenant relationship, a pact in which both parties bind themselves to certain promises and stipulations. This is also true of a marriage relationship. But here we are dealing with the living God. God’s covenant, either in God Himself or with man, is of course no contract or alliance or pact or agreement. A covenant, according to Scripture, is a relationship—this is surely true of the living God. And this certainly determines God’s relation with us. Because God is a covenant God He willed a covenant relationship with us. The Lord is not a cold, frigid, one-person god. In such a god, the god of the unitarians, there is no fellowship, no friendship. The Lord exercises friendship within Himself. He is Himself a covenant God. Hence, He is also a covenant God with us for His own Name’s sake. The one is basic to the other. Would God, if He Himself were not a covenant God, will a life of covenant fellowship between Himself and a creature, man? But this is not all. Our covenant relationship of friendship with the Lord must be like His. It is upon this truth that the theory of Common Grace immediately suffers shipwreck. This theory suggests that God has fellowship with the sinner, as sinner, loves the sinner, gives that sinner all kinds of natural gifts, such as health and sunshine and rain in His favor, is good to him in that universal sense of the word. In fact, the late Dr. A. Kuyper declares that the Lord has entered into an alliance with man to thwart the designs and purpose of the devil. How impossible this is! God’s own covenant life is a life of holiness and perfection. And this, of course, also determines God’s covenant with man. To commune with God, to have fellowship with Him, is possible, not in darkness, but only in the light. This is what we read in I John 1:15-17: “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin.” Can a repudiation of this theory of Common Grace, of a relation of friendship between God and the sinner, as sinner, be stated any more clearly than in this passage of I John? The Lord, the living God, establishes His covenant of friendship only with His people in Christ Jesus. Nothing else is possible. Of course, this is true only in principle as long as we are in this earthly house of our tabernacle. But presently, however, this will be culminated in heavenly and immortal perfection, in the new heavens and upon the new earth when Christ will make all things new.

Our Faith in Our Almighty Father (1)

The first article of the Apostles’ Creed reads, “I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.”

Our Heidelberg Catechism explains this first article in Lord’s Day 9, Answer 26 as follows:

That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (who of nothing made heaven and earth with all that is in them; who likewise upholds and governs the same, by his eternal counsel and providence) is for the sake of Christ his Son my God and my Father; on whom I rely so entirely, that I have no doubt, but he will provide me with all things necessary for soul and body: and further, that he will make whatever evils he sends upon me, in this valley of tears, turn out to my advantage; for he is able to do it, being Almighty God, and willing, being a faithful Father.

What a tremendous answer this is, Answer 26 of our Heidelberg Catechism! To be sure, there are other wonderful answers in this book of instruction. Answer 1 is a very beautiful answer: our only comfort in life and in death. Another beautiful and wonderful answer is the answer to Question 54 of Lord’s Day 21, concerning the holy catholic church. And then there is Answer 60 in Lord’s Day 23, to the question which reads, “How art thou righteous before God?” And, of course, there are other beautiful Lords Days. Fact is, this entire book is a wonderful book of instruction; one can only stand amazed that these young authors (Zacharias Ursinus and Casper Olevianus) were able to produce such a wonderful book as this Heidelberg Catechism. Lord’s Day 9, however, is also very wonderful. This is the Catechism’s explanation of the first article of the Apostles’ Creed. It is amazing how much our fathers can say in such few words. What tremendous ability on the part of our fathers! The same thing is true as far as our other confessions are concerned, the Canons of Dordt and our Confession of Faith. This entire answer, Answer 26, we must understand, is just one sentence. And let us consider all the truths which are set forth here in this twenty-sixth answer. This answer speaks of the eternal Fatherhood of God as in relation to Gods eternal Son. Then, it speaks of the eternal Fatherhood of God with relation to our Lord Jesus Christ. Besides this, we also read here of the divine creation of the heavens and the earth out of nothing. Then, we also read here of God’s providence, although this subject is also treated in Lord’s Day 10. Our fathers here also call attention to Gods eternal counsel. And we also read of God’s Fatherhood in relation to the believers for Jesus’ sake. And finally we read of His omnipotence, and also of His power and willingness to cause all things to work together for our good. Indeed, what an amazing Lord’s Day we have here! And all this, we must understand, is treated by the Catechism as the object of the faith of the child of God. It is the child of God who believes in this almighty Father, for Jesus’ sake, and who therefore may know and believe that he is completely safe in the midst of the world, who says, “I believe in God, the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.”

When treating this first article of our Apostles’ Creed, one can dwell upon and discuss so many things. One, for example, can ask very difficult questions in regard to the doctrine of creation and the counsel of God. Did God, when He created the world, become something He was not prior to this work of creation, namely a Creator? When the Lord created the world, did not something begin to exist which previously had not existed? Was God, therefore, richer after He made the world than He was before He made the world? Is not God with the world richer than God without the world? Did God become a Father when He begat a people in Christ Jesus? However, does not this answer speak of the “eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”? And, do we not read here that God is the Father of Christ, His Son? Indeed, how wonderful is this first article of our Apostles’ Creed, and what an amazing answer is this twenty-sixth answer!

Our Heidelberg Catechism, in this twenty-sixth answer, mentions God’s eternal counsel and providence. That Gods eternal counsel should be implied in this first article of the Apostles’ Creed lies in the very nature of the case. We believe in God, the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. We read in Acts 15:18, “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.” And in Isaiah 46:10 we read, “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, my counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.” A builder erects a building according to a plan designed by an architect. God is the heavenly Builder and Maker and Architect. He does all things according to His eternal counsel and plan, having willed all things from before the foundations of the world.