Herman Veldman is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.
In our preceding article we asked the question whether God became richer when He created the world, whether God with the creation is richer than the Lord without this creation. After all, did not the Lord have something after He created the world which He did not have prior to the creation of this universe? First of all, the Lord cannot and did not enrich Himself when He created all things. On the one hand, this would imply a certain poverty on the part of God before His creation of the world, a certain lack, something which He did not have prior to His calling all things into existence. There is no lack in God. He is the God of eternal Self-sufficiency. On the other hand, however, the world is but a mirror in which is reflected in a creaturely measure the goodness of our God. How can a mirror enrich the Lord? A mirror simply reflects that which exists eternally and fully and completely within the alone living God. God, we repeat, is the God of eternal Self-sufficiency.
Besides, we must bear in mind that God has willed and planned all things from before the foundation of the world. This is God’s counsel, something which is beyond all human understanding and comprehension. God’s counsel is not merely a dead blueprint. This is true as far as an earthly architect is concerned. His blueprint is a dead blueprint. If all we had were a blueprint of an house, we would quickly freeze to death. The blueprint is nothing, merely a design or plan; the building itself is the reality. But this does not apply to the Lord. With God, God’s counsel is the living reality. God, in His counsel, has conceived of all things. All men and all spirits (good and evil) stand eternally before Him. They all stand before Him also in their relation to one another. And this is not all. God has also conceived of all things, in the heavens above, upon the earth beneath, and in all the waters under the earth. He has willed all creation, animate and inanimate, living and lifeless. He has willed the whole world of plants and vegetation. In His counsel appear every wind and storm, all raindrops and snowflakes, all things, also in their relation to each other. Indeed, we must conceive of this plan or counsel in the supralapsarian sense of the word. He has willed the Christ, the Mediator and Head of His own; He has willed all the elect with Christ as their Head; and He has also willed the devil and all his host. All the reprobates, light and darkness, life and death, sin and grace are all within this counsel of the Lord. This counsel of God is therefore the absolute, living reality. Whereas we see but the smallest part of it as this counsel unfolds, God sees this living reality eternally in all its fullness. What an amazing truth this is, incomprehensible and beyond all human understanding. Indeed, God’s counsel is the living and absolute Reality. Known unto God are all His works from before the foundation of the world. This is surely implied in this wonderful first article of our Apostles’ Creed.
Of course, when we consider the question concerning the creation of the world and God’s eternal counsel, whether the Lord became richer when He created all things, we stand before an unfathomable mystery. After all, we are dealing here with the living God, the relation of the Infinite to the finite, the Eternal to the temporal, (the Absolute to the relative, the Creator to the things He created. God, we understand, is incomprehensible, infinitely exalted above all our human puny understanding. We read in Job 36:26, “Behold, God is great, and we know Him not, neither can the number of His years be searched out.” In Psalm 145:3 we read, “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; and His greatness is unsearchable.” And in Isaiah 40:15-18, 28 we read, “Behold, nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, He taketh up the isles as a very little thing. And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof for a burnt offering. All nations before Him are as nothing; and they are counted to Him less than nothing, and vanity. To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will you compare unto Him? . . . Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of His understanding.” How, then, shall we comprehend His work? We read in Job 11:7-9, “Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know? The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea.”
Concerning this relation between God’s counsel and His creation, we wish to add a few remarks to what was stated in our preceding article. First of all, as far as God’s counsel is concerned. God’s counsel is eternal. Now we probably think of God’s counsel as some sort of a blueprint that was drawn up by God at some moment before the creation of the world. We ourselves are creatures of the dust. And we think, shall we say, in the area of time. Eternity, however, is not the same as time, neither is time a part of eternity; eternity is not time endlessly stretched out. God created time. So, God’s counsel is not something that was drawn up, that did not exist before it was drawn up, and which is no longer of value when once it is being realized and carried out, as is the case with our blueprints. But God’s counsel is the eternal and living and almighty mind and will of God with respect to all things, in time and in space. God never was and never will be without His counsel. He is the eternally decreeing God. In the second place, God’s counsel is all-comprehensive. We also referred to this in our preceding article. It embraces all things, this eternal and infinite knowledge of the Most High. How completely beyond all human understanding is also this truth! We are aware of only a small part of the world at any given moment. We are children of time. And as children of time we see only a very small part of the world, and that only on the surface, and whatever we see comes and goes. For us the world of the past is gone and the world of the future is not yet; we live in that indivisible moment which we call the “present.” But the counsel of God is ever before the Lord. He is constantly seeing His eternal and all-comprehensive plan. And He sees this reality, not as an experience that comes to Him from the outside of Him, but as the sovereign decree of His own will. All things, from the beginning in Paradise, throughout history and culminating in the antichrist and our Lord’s return upon the clouds of heaven, stand eternally before His eternal and sovereign mind. Is it not this that we read in Acts 15:18: “Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world?” And this is not all.
In this eternal counsel the Lord also sees all things in their proper relation to each other. Eternally the Lord sees the first Paradise in its relation to the second Paradise. And we must bear in mind that we must not introduce the element of time into this counsel of the Lord. There are in the counsel of God no firsts or seconds or thirds, etc., time-wise. There is in God no before and no after. It is not so that the Lord decreed something today and then something else tomorrow. All God’s counsel, we understand, is eternal. There is in this will of God no order of time, only an order of importance, what we, therefore, call a logical order. And in this logical order, the order of importance, the order in which everything occupies its proper place, the greatest purpose is the glory of God’s Name, His Self-revelation and praise, in the divinely sovereign way of sin and grace, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. This is the supralapsarian conception, emphasizing that all things have been divinely ordained as means unto the end. This is the divine wisdom, the eternal Reality of all things. Eternally the Lord knows and sees all of history, all things in the heavens above and upon the earth beneath and in the waters under the earth, all men, saints and sinners, including the devil and all his host, in their relation to one another and as serving the glory of God’s Name, and all this from the beginning even until the end of the world. This is God’s counsel or will or good pleasure, the eternal, living Reality of all things. And in the light of this we may perhaps somewhat grasp the thought that the creation of the world did not make God any richer, inasmuch as the eternal reality of all things is constantly and eternally before His divine mind. Indeed, the creation of the world did not enrich the Lord inasmuch as the eternal reality of all things is eternally before His face and mind.
We would now call attention to an amazing statement at the conclusion of Answer 26 of our Heidelberg Catechism, which answer is the Catechism’s explanation of the first article of our Apostles’ Creed, relative to our faith in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
This is an amazing confession of faith. Imagine what we read here at the conclusion of this answer: God will provide me with all things necessary for soul and body, and, further, He will make whatever evils He sends me, in this valley of tears, turn out to my advantage. This is indeed an amazing confession.
To understand the amazing character of this confession we must bear in mind that we are not standing in the original Paradise, in the midst of earthly perfection, as did Adam. Adam had nothing to fear. Death was nowhere at hand. There were no enemies to threaten his life. The evils whereof we read in the Catechism’s explanation of the believers’ faith in God were not in existence. To the contrary, we are in the midst of a valley of tears. Of this valley we read in this twenty-sixth answer. And this means that, seemingly, God is doing the exact opposite. Today we hear voices to the effect that our evils do not come from God. This, however, as is evident from this answer, is not an opinion shared by our fathers. We read here of these evils that it is God Who sends them unto us. And this means that the Lord, instead of causing all things to work together for our good, is seemingly doing, we repeat, the very opposite. Surely, all our sorrow and misery and grief and death are not accidental. These evils do not befall us by chance. The living God is doing all this; the Lord is therefore executing us every day. The Lord is seeking our good and welfare? Fact is, it is by His wrath that we are being consumed, even as we also read it in the ninetieth psalm. Instead of giving us all we need, causing all things to work together for our good, He appears to be against us, executing us every moment. We may and can never separate all these evils from the living God Who alone is in sovereign and absolute control of all these things.
And now we confess this wonderful truth. How can this be? First of all, my heavenly Father is the Creator of the heavens and of the earth. Secondly, He surely realized His counsel in Paradise. We are now in this valley of tears? Well, this valley of tears is from Him, our Father in Christ Jesus, and it is from Him as from our Father in Christ Jesus. He is saving us, not from this valley of tears but exactly through it. And, finally, this heavenly Father also sustains all things. Hence, we have nothing to fear. Our almighty Creator-Father is in absolute control. He is constantly leading and guiding us. We are always in His hand. We believe this; and faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen.
The Lord willing, we will continue with this first article of our Apostles’ Creed in our following article.