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James Boice Sermon: “Man, God’s Regent” – Genesis 1:28-31

SERIES: GENESIS – PART 12

Genesis 1-11 vol 1 Boice

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day. – Genesis 1:28-31

In looking at the account of the creation of man by God in Genesis 1, we have already seen two points that are emphasized. First, man is created. This is repeated three times in verse 27, obviously for emphasis. Second, man is created in God’s image. This is repeated four times in verses 26 and 27. Following this clue to what are the most important ideas, we come next to the teaching that man was to rule over creation as God’s regent. This is mentioned twice, in verses 26 and 28.

Who is this who is to rule God’s creation? What is he like? What are his gifts? To whom is he responsible?

For the purpose of this study I want to follow the substance of an address given by Dr. John H. Gerstner, a former professor of church history at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, to the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology in 1977. His address considered five things about man as God made him. First, man was created, and he still is. Second, man was created male and female, and he still is. Third, man was created body and soul, and he still is. Fourth, man was created dominant over the animals, and he still is. Fifth, man was created holy, and he still is—not.

Created by God

We have already seen that man’s being created in the image of God involves his having a personality, a sense of morality and spirituality. But in relation to his rule over the animals, to which we have now come, man’s creation involves responsibility as well. If man were his own creator, he would be responsible to no one. But he is not his own creator. He is created by God, and this means that he is responsible to God for what he does in every area of his life and particularly for how he carries out the mandate to rule over creation. These verses record God as saying, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground” (v. 26). To man he says, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (v. 28). Dominion of any kind, but particularly dominion of this scope, implies responsibility.

Today in the western world there is a tendency to deny man’s moral responsibility on the basis of some kind of determinism. It usually takes one of two forms. It may be a physical, mechanical determinism (“man is the product of his genes and body chemistry”), or it may be a psychological determinism (“man is the product of his environment and of the earlier things that have happened to him”). In either case the individual is excused from responsibility for what he or she does. Thus, we have gone through a period in which criminal behavior was termed a sickness and the criminal was regarded more as a victim of his environment than as the victimizer. (Recently there is a tendency at least to reconsider this matter.) Less blatant but nevertheless morally reprehensible acts are excused with, “I suppose he just couldn’t help it.”

The biblical view of man could hardly be more different. As Francis Schaeffer correctly notes, “Since God has made man in his own image, man is not caught in the wheels of determinism. Rather man is so great that he can influence history for himself and for others, for this life and the life to come.” Man is fallen. But even in his fallen state he is responsible. He can do great things, or he can do things that are terrible.

God created the man and woman and gave them dominion over the created order. Consequently, they were responsible to him for what they did. When man sins, as the Genesis account goes on to show that he does, it is God who requires a reckoning: “Where are you? … Who told you that you were naked? … What is this you have done?” (Gen. 3:9, 11, 13). In the thousands of years since Eden many have convinced themselves that they are not responsible. But the testimony of Scripture is that this area of responsibility still stands and that all will one day answer to God at the judgment. “The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books” (Rev. 20:12).

People are also responsible for their acts toward others. This is the reason for those biblical statements instituting capital punishment as a proper response to murder; for instance, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed” (Gen. 9:6). These verses are not in the Bible as relics of a more barbarous age or because in the biblical outlook man is not valuable. They are there for precisely the opposite reason: Man is too valuable to be wantonly destroyed. Thus, the harshest penalties are reserved for such destruction. In a related way, James 3:9–10 forbid the use of the tongue to curse others because these others are also made in God’s image: “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. … This should not be.” In these texts murder of another and cursing of another are forbidden on the grounds that the other person (even after the fall) retains something of God’s image and is therefore to be valued by us, as God also values him.

Male and Female

Second, man was created male and female, and it is still so. In our day many say that there are no essential differences between men and women, or that whatever differences there are, are accidental. This is understandable from those who think that mindless evolution is the means by which we have become what we are. But it is entirely incomprehensible from the standpoint of the Bible, which tells us that nothing is an accident and that sexuality in particular is the result of the creative act of God. Maleness and femaleness are therefore good and meaningful, just as other aspects of God’s creation are good and meaningful. Men are not women. Women are not men. One of the saddest things in the universe is a man who tries to be a woman or a woman who tries to be a man. “But who is superior?” someone asks. I answer: A man is absolutely superior to a woman—at being a man; a woman is absolutely superior to a man—at being a woman. But let a woman try to be a man or a man try to be a woman, and you have a monstrosity.

This is thought to deny equality before God, as if equality means indistinguishability. But this thought is neither biblical nor rational. The man and the woman are equal before God, but they are not indistinguishable. In the economy of the family (and the church), the man is to lead, protect, care for, cherish, act upon, and initiate. The woman is to respond, receive, be acted upon, bear, nurture, follow. In this the human family is a deliberate parallelism to the Trinity. We say in theology that within the Trinity the three persons are “one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.” But there are also distinctions according to which the second person of the Godhead, the Son, voluntarily subordinates himself to carry out the wishes of the Father in redemption, and the third person, the Holy Spirit, voluntarily subordinates himself to the united wills of the Father and Son.

The subordination of the woman to the man in marriage is a voluntary submission. As Gerstner writes, “No woman need accept the proposal of any man. But when she enters voluntarily into holy matrimony with that man, she becomes as 1 Peter 3 demands, ‘submissive’ and ‘obedient’ to her husband.” In the same way, children are under the divine command to “obey” and “honor” their fathers and mothers. “We know from sorry experience that many of them choose not to do so, but if they do (as they are under a divine mandate to do), they must do so voluntarily. So there is in the economy of the human family, which God made in his own image, a replica of the divine Trinity itself, in which there is a proper and voluntary subordination.”

Body and Soul

Third, God made man body and soul, and he still does. There is a debate at this point between those who believe in a three-part construction of man’s being and those who believe in a two-part construction (the position Gerstner takes in the address I am following). But the debate is not as significant as it sometimes seems. All parties recognize that the human being consists at least of the physical part that dies and needs to be resurrected and the immaterial part that lives beyond death. The only question is whether this immaterial part can be further distinguished as containing, on the one hand, a soul or personality and, on the other hand, a spirit that alone relates us to God.

Here the linguistic data should be determinative, but unfortunately it is not as clear as one could wish. Sometimes, particularly in the earlier parts of the Old Testament, soul (nephesh) and spirit (ruach) are used interchangeably. But in other places, particularly in the later parts of the Old Testament, ruach increasingly comes to designate that element by which men and women relate to God, in distinction from nephesh, which then meant merely the life principle. In conformity to this outlook, “soul” is used in reference to animals, while “spirit” is not. Conversely, the prophets, who heard the voice of God and communed with him in a special sense, are always said to be animated by the “spirit” (but not the “soul”) of God. In the New Testament the linguistic data is similar. While soul (psyche) and spirit (pneuma) are sometimes freely exchanged for one another, as in the Old Testament, pneuma nevertheless also expresses that particular capacity for relating to God that is the redeemed man’s glory as opposed to mere psyche, which even the unsaved man possesses (1 Cor. 2:9–16).

In this area the particular words are possibly less important than the truths they convey. Those who insist on the unity of man, nevertheless believe that he is more than mere matter. If they adhere to a two-part scheme, they recognize that there is that about him that sets him off from animals.

The body is the part we see, the part that possesses physical life. We have a body in common with every living thing.

The soul is the part of the person we call personality or self-identity. This is not a simple matter to talk about. The soul is related to the body through the brain, a part of the body. It is also related to the qualities we associate with spirit. Nevertheless, in general terms soul refers to what makes an individual unique. We might say that the soul centers in the mind and includes all likes and dislikes, special abilities or weaknesses, emotions, aspirations, and anything else that makes the individual different from all others of his species. It is because we have souls that we are able to have fellowship, love, and communication with one another.

But man does not only have fellowship, love, and communication with others of his species. He also has love and communion with God, and for this he needs a spirit. The spirit is that part of human nature that communes with God and partakes in some measure of God’s essence. God is nowhere said to be body or soul. But God is defined as spirit. “God is spirit,” said Jesus; therefore, “his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). Because man is spirit (or comes to possess a spirit by means of the new birth) he can have fellowship with God and worship him.

In speaking of soul and body, Gerstner has a good insight. He notes that “the quirk of human nature in its present state, unlike its original condition, is that we have a tendency to recognize that the other person is a conscious, rational and moral soul, but that we treat ourselves as if we were merely a combination of chemicals and reactions. A boy once said to his mother, ‘Mother, why is it that whenever I do anything bad it’s because I am a bad boy, but whenever you do anything bad it’s because you are nervous?’ That is the principle. When the boy does something bad the mother recognizes that he is a spirit. He is a morally responsible individual who can be properly reprimanded for his misbehavior. But when she does the same thing … she reminds her son that she is a body of nerves and should somehow not be responsible.”

But we are responsible. The soul does have dominion over the body. Consequently, whatever our weaknesses may be, we are responsible to subordinate our fleshly desires and live for God.

Dominion Over the Animals

Fourth, man was created dominant over the animals—the point particularly stressed in these verses. Martin Luther wrote in his lectures on Genesis that in his opinion Adam in his original state was superior to the animals even in those points where they were strong. “I am fully convinced,” he said, “that before Adam’s sin his eyes were so sharp and clear that they surpassed those of the lynx and eagle. He was stronger than the lions and the bears, whose strength is very great; and he handled them the way we handle puppies.” Later on, as he begins to think of Adam’s intellectual powers, he says, “If … we are looking for an outstanding philosopher, let us not overlook our first parents while they were still free from sin.” It was with such capacities that man ruled creation.

At the present time we have this horrible situation. In his sin man either tends to dominate and thus violate the creation, subjecting it to his own selfish ends, or else he tends to fall down and worship the creation, not realizing that his debasement is brought about in the process. As the Bible describes them, the man and the woman were made “a little lower than the heavenly beings” (Ps. 8:5); that is, they were placed between the highest and lowest beings, between angels and beasts. But it is significant that man is described as being slightly lower than the angels rather than being slightly higher than the beasts. That is, man’s privilege is that he is to be a mediating figure, but he is also to be one who looks up rather than down. The unfortunate thing is that when man severs the tie that binds him to God and tries to cast off God’s rule, he does not rise up to take God’s place, as he desires to do, but rather sinks to a more bestial level. In fact, he comes to think of himself as a beast (“the naked ape”) or, even worse, a machine.

Holy and Still is—Not

This brings us to the last point: God created man holy, and now he is—not. The other items we have considered remain, though they are distorted by sin in each case. Man is still a created being, though weak and destined to die. He is still male and female. He is still body and soul. He is still dominant over the animals. But man was also created holy as God is holy, and of this original righteousness not a vestige remains. Rather, as the Scriptures say, “Every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time” (Gen. 6:5).

This is why man needs a Savior. God made man upright, but he sought out his own devices. In turning each to his or her own way man brought ruin on the race. Now, not only is no one holy, none is capable even of regaining that holiness. Before the fall, to use Augustine’s phrase, man was posse non peccare (“able not to sin”). But he was also, as Augustine also faithfully declared in accordance with the Bible’s teaching, posse peccare (“able to sin”), which choice he exploited. Now he is non posse non peccare (“not able not to sin”). It is as though he jumped into a pit where he is now trapped. He must remain in that pit until God by grace through the work of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit lifts him out.

About the Preacher

Boice JM in pulpit

James Montgomery Boice, Th.D., (July 7, 1938 – June 15, 2000) was a Reformed theologian, Bible teacher, and pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia from 1968 until his death. He is heard on The Bible Study Hour radio broadcast and was a well-known author and speaker in evangelical and Reformed circles. He also served as Chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy for over ten years and was a founding member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. James Boice was one of my favorite Bible teachers. Thankfully – many of his books and expositions of Scripture are still in print and more are becoming available. The sermon above was adapted from Chapter 12 in Genesis 1-11: An Expositional Commentaryvol. 1: Creation and Fall. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006.

Under Dr. Boice’s leadership, Tenth Presbyterian Church became a model for ministry in America’s northeastern inner cities. When he assumed the pastorate of Tenth Church there were 350 people in regular attendance. At his death the church had grown to a regular Sunday attendance in three services of more than 1,200 persons, a total membership of 1,150 persons. Under his leadership, the church established a pre-school for children ages 3-5 (now defunct), a high school known as City Center Academy, a full range of adult fellowship groups and classes, and specialized outreach ministries to international students, women with crisis pregnancies, homosexual and HIV-positive clients, and the homeless. Many of these ministries are now free-standing from the church.

Dr. Boice gave leadership to groups beyond his own organization. For ten years he served as Chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, from its founding in 1977 until the completion of its work in 1988. ICBI produced three classic, creedal documents: “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics” and “The Chicago Statement on the Application of the Bible to Contemporary Issues.” The organization published many books, held regional “Authority of Scripture” seminars across the country, and sponsored the large lay “Congress on the Bible I,” which met in Washington, D.C., in September 1987. He also served on the Board of Bible Study Fellowship.

He founded the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals (Alliance) in 1994, initially a group of pastors and theologians who were focused on bringing the 20th and now 21st century church to a new reformation. In 1996 this group met and wrote the Cambridge Declaration. Following the Cambridge meetings, the Alliance assumed leadership of the programs and publications formerly under Evangelical Ministries, Inc. (Dr. Boice) and Christians United for Reformation (Horton) in late 1996.

Dr. Boice was a prodigious world traveler. He journeyed to more than thirty countries in most of the world’s continents, and he taught the Bible in such countries as England, France, Canada, Japan, Australia, Guatemala, Korea and Saudi Arabia. He lived in Switzerland for three years while pursuing his doctoral studies.

Dr. Boice held degrees from Harvard University (A.B.), Princeton Theological Seminary (B.D.), the University of Basel, Switzerland (D. Theol.) and the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Episcopal Church (D.D., honorary).

A prolific author, Dr. Boice had contributed nearly forty books on a wide variety of Bible related themes. Most are in the form of expositional commentaries, growing out of his preaching: Psalms (1 volume), Romans (4 volumes), Genesis (3 volumes), Daniel, The Minor Prophets (2 volumes), The Sermon on the Mount, John (5 volumes, reissued in one), Ephesians, Phillippians and The Epistles of John. Many more popular volumes: Hearing God When You Hurt, Mind Renewal in a Mindless Christian Life, Standing on the Rock, The Parables of Jesus, The Christ of Christmas, The Christ of the Open Tomb and Christ’s Call to Discipleship. He also authored Foundations of the Christian Faith a 740-page book of theology for laypersons. Many of these books have been translated into other languages, such as: French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Chinese and Korean.

He was married to Linda Ann Boice (born McNamara), who continues to teach at the high school they co-founded.

Source: Taken directly from the Aliance of Confessing Evangelicals’ Website

James Montgomery Boice’s Books:

1970 Witness and Revelation in the Gospel of John (Zondervan)
1971 Philippians: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1972 The Sermon on the Mount (Zondervan)
1973 How to Live the Christian Life (Moody; originally, How to Live It Up,
Zondervan)
1974 Ordinary Men Called by God (Victor; originally, How God Can Use
Nobodies)
1974 The Last and Future World (Zondervan)
1975-79 The Gospel of John: An Expositional Commentary (5 volumes,
Zondervan; issued in one volume, 1985; 5 volumes, Baker 1999)
1976 “Galatians” in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Zondervan)
1977 Can You Run Away from God? (Victor)
1977 Does Inerrancy Matter? (Tyndale)
1977 Our Sovereign God, editor (Baker)
1978 The Foundation of Biblical Authority, editor (Zondervan)
1979 The Epistles of John: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1979 Making God’s Word Plain, editor (Tenth Presbyterian Church)
1980 Our Savior God: Studies on Man, Christ and the Atonement, editor (Baker)
1982-87 Genesis: An Expositional Commentary (3 volumes, Zondervan)
1983 The Parables of Jesus (Moody)
1983 The Christ of Christmas (Moody)
1983-86 The Minor Prophets: An Expositional Commentary (2 volumes,
Zondervan)
1984 Standing on the Rock (Tyndale). Reissued 1994 (Baker)
1985 The Christ of the Open Tomb (Moody)
1986 Foundations of the Christian Faith (4 volumes in one, InterVarsity
Press; original volumes issued, 1978-81)
1986 Christ’s Call to Discipleship (Moody)
1988 Transforming Our World: A Call to Action, editor (Multnomah)
1988, 98 Ephesians: An Expositional Commentary (Baker)
1989 Daniel: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1989 Joshua: We Will Serve the Lord (Revell)
1990 Nehemiah: Learning to Lead (Revell)
1992-94 Romans (4 volumes, Baker)
1992 The King Has Come (Christian Focus Publications)
1993 Amazing Grace (Tyndale)
1993 Mind Renewal in a Mindless Age (Baker)
1994-98 Psalms (3 volumes, Baker)
1994 Sure I Believe, So What! (Christian Focus Publications)
1995 Hearing God When You Hurt (Baker)
1996 Two Cities, Two Loves (InterVarsity)
1996 Here We Stand: A Call from Confessing Evangelicals, editor with
Benjamin E. Sasse (Baker)
1997 Living By the Book (Baker)
1997 Acts: An Expositional Commentary (Baker)
1999 The Heart of the Cross, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)
1999 What Makes a Church Evangelical?
2000 Hymns for a Modern Reformation, with Paul S. Jones
2001 Matthew: An Expositional Commentary (2 volumes, Baker)
2001 Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace? (Crossway)
2002 The Doctrines of Grace, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)
2002 Jesus on Trial, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)

Chapters

1985 “The Future of Reformed Theology” in David F. Wells, editor,
Reformed Theology in America: A History of Its Modern Development
(Eerdmans)
1986 “The Preacher and Scholarship” in Samuel T. Logan, editor, The
Preacher and Preaching: Reviving the Art in the Twentieth Century
(Presbyterian and Reformed)
1992 “A Better Way: The Power of Word and Spirit” in Michael Scott
Horton, editor, Power Religion: The Selling Out of the Evangelical Church?
(Moody)
1994 “The Sovereignty of God” in John D. Carson and David W. Hall,
editors, To Glorify and Enjoy God: A Commemoration of the 350th
Anniversary of the Westminster Assembly (Banner of Truth Trust)

SOURCE: from the Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, website

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Tim Keller Sermon: Paradise Lost – Genesis 3:8-24

SERIES: Bible: The Whole Story—Creation and Fall – PART 3

Tim Keller teaching at RPC image

Preached in Manhattan, New York on January 18, 2009

Genesis 3:8–24

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” 10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” 12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

14 So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,

Cursed are you above all the livestock

and all the wild animals!

You will crawl on your belly

and you will eat dust

all the days of your life.

15 And I will put enmity

between you and the woman,

and between your offspring and hers;

he will crush your head,

and you will strike his heel.”

16 To the woman he said,

“I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing;

with pain you will give birth to children.

Your desire will be for your husband,

and he will rule over you.”

17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’

Cursed is the ground because of you;

through painful toil you will eat of it

all the days of your life.

18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,

and you will eat the plants of the field.

19 By the sweat of your brow

you will eat your food

until you return to the ground,

since from it you were taken;

for dust you are

and to dust you will return.”

20 Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living. 21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 22 And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”

23 So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

We’re looking at what the Bible says about sin. The Bible is not a disconnected set of stories, each of which has a little moral about how to live life. Primarily, the Bible is a single story telling us what is wrong with the human race, what God is going to do about it, and how history is going to end, how it’s all going to turn out. It’s a single story. We’re looking at Genesis 3–4 to give us answers to what’s wrong with the human race, why the human race is so prone to selfishness, violence, wars, atrocity, and corruption all the time.

C.E.M. Joad was a British philosopher. He was an atheist. He was a member of The Brains Trust. He lived in the early twentieth century. He was an atheist but came back to faith later in life and, at the very end of life, wrote a book called The Recovery of Belief. In it he said this very fascinating thing: “It is because we rejected the doctrine of original sin that we on the left were always being disillusioned by the behavior of both the people and the nations and politicians, and by the recurrent fact of war.”

Did you hear that? He says he thought most of the problems were the capitalists, not the common people, because he had rejected the doctrine of original sin. He bought into what Rousseau said, what Samuel Taylor Coleridge said, what almost all of the European intellectuals in the nineteenth century said. That is, that though human beings have their problems, the problems are not hardwired into us. They are lack of education. We can make the changes.

He realized near the end of his life that because he didn’t believe in the doctrine of original sin, he didn’t believe what the Bible said about the universality and the depth of sin in every human heart, he had basically based his whole life on a different view of human nature. He set in motion social policies that didn’t work. Basically, because he didn’t have the Bible’s understanding of human nature, he wasn’t able to navigate life as it was. Isn’t that something?

So let’s see what the Bible has to say about sin (last week, this week, and the next couple of weeks) as we look at Genesis 3–4. We learn four things here: the heart of sin, the breadth of sin, the depth of sin, and the end of sin.

1. The heart of sin

What is sin again? What is the definition of sin? The reason you may find out every week I give you a different definition is that, like the concept of God, the concept of sin is so profound you can’t stick it into one single nutshell definition. Last week we said, in terms of a vertical perspective, sin is putting yourself in the place of God. It’s taking upon yourself prerogatives and rights only God has. We talked about that last week.

Today I’d like to give you a more horizontal perspective. You see it right away. As soon as Adam and Eve have eaten the fruit and now sin has come into their lives and we’re seeing the results of this, immediately we see what I’d like to show you here. When God says here in verse 11, “Did you eat of the tree I commanded you not to eat from?” the man says, “The woman did it.”

Just to show you, by the way, the man is not more sinful than the woman, when God turns to the woman and says, “What do you have to say for yourself?” she says, “The Serpent did it.” We’ll get back to that, the equality here. Here’s the point. When Adam says, “She made me do it; send her to hell; give me another wife,” basically … “You’re talking to the holy God of the universe. What do you have to say for yourself?” “Take her.”

Here we see the essence of sin in a horizontal perspective. Sin is a willingness to throw anybody else under the bus to justify yourself. Sin is justifying yourself at the expense of other people, to feel superior to other people. In order to have a self-image, I have to feel superior to other people. I have to expose other people. I have to exploit other people. Sin is saying, “Your life to enhance mine,” not “My life to enhance yours.” See that’s servanthood.

“Your life to enhance mine. I will suck you dry. I will drain you dry. I will disadvantage you so I can feel good about myself, so I can justify myself, so I can have the significance and security I want.” Philip Roth wrote a novel called The Human Stain. That’s his metaphor for evil. The novel is actually about a man who starts to do very well in life, and everybody feels they have to bring him down. They have to find something wrong with him. They have to ruin his career.

Philip Roth has one of his characters talk about what he calls “the human stain,” which is this proneness to evil in the heart, which is, in a sense, deeper than behavioral actions. It’s this need to pull people down, this need to justify yourself at the expense of other people, to feel better than other people. “I’m good because you’re bad. I’m competent because you’re incompetent.”

At one point one of his characters … She calls this the human stain in the heart, and she says something like, “It’s in everyone, indwelling, inherent, defining. The stain that precedes your acts of disobedience, that encompasses disobedience and perplexes all explanation and understanding. It’s why all talk of cleansing your heart is a joke. The fantasy of purity is appalling, for what is the quest to purify but more impurity? The stain is inescapable.”

What does she mean by that? She says, “If you actually try to purify yourself, that just brings more impurity.” Here’s why. The stain is self-righteousness. The stain is, “I justify myself by pulling you down, by making myself feel superior to you, better than you.” If that’s the case, then to try to purify yourself from the stain only makes you more stained, because you say, “Look, I’m pure,” and you’re not.

C.S. Lewis wrote a little satirical piece called “Screwtape Proposes a Toast.” Screwtape is a senior devil (this is a satirical, fictional piece, by the way) who basically is at a dinner for a college of junior devils who are getting ready to go out there and tempt the human race and make life horrible. So Screwtape suggests a particular method for making people’s lives miserable and making the world a horrible place.

What he suggests is there’s a particular feeling human beings have, and what you want to do is turn the gas up on that feeling. Whatever else you do, make sure you enhance this feeling, because this is the feeling that will really ruin their lives. Then Screwtape says, “The feeling I am talking about is that which prompts a person to say, ‘I’m as good as you.’ ” That’s the essence of sin. That’s the essence of how hell operates. That’s what made the Devil, the Devil. “I’m as good as you.” When Satan started saying that about God, it was all downhill for the universe.

He says, “Anyone who says, ‘I’m as good as you,’ does not believe it. No one says, ‘I’m as good as you,’ if you believe it. You wouldn’t say it if you did. The St. Bernard never says to the toy dog, ‘I’m as good as you.’ ‘I’m as good as you’ is a useful means for the destruction of whole societies, but it has a far deeper value as a state of mind, which necessarily, excluding humility, charity, contentment, and all of the pleasures of gratitude or admiration, turns a human being away from every road which might finally lead him to heaven.”

The impulse that makes you say, “I’m as good as you. I don’t like you getting ahead of me …” The impulse that says, “I’m better than you; that’s how I know I’m okay” is sin, and it’s really at the root of everything from murder to racism to all of our conflicts. This is another view into the heart of sin.

2. The breadth of sin

This is really important. I’ve already alluded to it. What the man does, so does the woman. The man and the woman are both equally ashamed, both equally filled with blame shifting and doing the same behavior, both equally banished. There’s no difference. One is not more sinful than the other. This is crucial.

The Christian doctrine of original sin is that we are hardwired for selfishness and cruelty. It’s not just a problem of we have bad examples or bad environments. We’re hardwired for it. Secondly, the Christian doctrine of original sin is that we’re all hardwired for it, all of us, across the cultures, across the races, across the classes, across the genders. Everybody. Let me show you how important that is.

Remember what Joad said? He said we were on the left, because we denied the doctrine of original sin, thought what’s really wrong with the world was located in the capitalists, in the elites, not in the common people. But life showed him that, no, sin is everywhere. He realized the mistake he made as a member of the left was, because he didn’t believe in the doctrine of original sin, he demonized a certain group of people, he demonized a certain set of folks, and saw that is where the problem is, but the doctrine of original sin is it’s in all of us equally.

On the other hand … I don’t want you to think I’m picking on people from the left. People from the left would say, “Oh, it’s the elites; it’s not the common people.” There are other ways to look at it. What about conservative people, or what about people who just simply are traditional and feel like what’s really wrong with the people is the hoi polloi, the unwashed masses, the common people?

There’s a very famous letter that has come down to us from the Duchess of Buckingham. The Countess of Huntingdon, who had become converted to evangelical religion under the preaching of George Whitefield in the eighteenth century in Britain, tried to evangelize her aristocratic colleagues. She would send sermons by George Whitefield to her friends. She would invite them to come to hear him preach. One of her aristocratic peers, the Duchess of Buckingham, after having been invited by the countess to come and hear George Whitefield, sent her an icy note declining. This is what she said:

“I thank Your Ladyship, but the doctrines are most repulsive and strongly tinctured with impertinence and disrespect toward their superiors in perpetually endeavoring to level all ranks and do away with all distinctions. It is monstrous to be told you have a heart as sinful as the common wretches that crawl upon the earth. It is highly offensive and insulting, so I cannot but wonder that your ladyship should relish any sentiments so much at variance with high rank and good breeding.”

She’s right. The doctrine of original sin levels people. The doctrine of original sin makes it impossible for people from the left to say, “It’s those elites up there, not us common people,” and it makes it impossible for the people from the right to say, “It’s you unwashed masses,” or “It’s you criminal element,” or something like that, “not us virtuous people who have good breeding.” She was right. Do you know why? The doctrine of original sin creates a radical democracy of sinners.

If you believe in original sin, nobody is better than anybody else. You cannot look down your nose at a criminal or a drug dealer and say, “There’s a sinner; not me,” because the doctrine of original sin says the same seeds of that kind of behavior are in your heart. Maybe it didn’t sprout because you weren’t in the very same environment as that person out there, but the fact of the matter is you’re no better. We’re all sinners. We all need grace.

The Duchess of Buckingham was right. She says, “This levels everybody, to say that I have a heart as sinful as the common wretches that crawl the earth.” That’s what the Bible teaches. It destroys self-righteousness. That’s the reason G.K. Chesterton says, “Christianity preaches an obviously unattractive idea, such as original sin; but when we wait for its results, they are pathos and brotherhood, and a thunder of laughter and pity; for only with original sin we can at once pity the beggar and distrust the king.”

What does he mean by “brotherhood”? What it means is it’s possible for a society that claims to be Christian to be racist, but if it is, it’s racist in spite of the doctrine of original sin, not because of it. It’s not grasping what the doctrine says. What the doctrine says is it’s a radical democracy. We’re all brothers and sisters in sin. We’re all under judgment. We all have no hope except for the grace of God.

That’s the reason why if you really grasp the doctrine of original sin, it creates a solidarity between you and every single person, even the most wretched people you see on the streets of New York City. When that comes into your heart, no longer do you say, “Oh, who are these people?” You are these people. I read about a discussion that happened here in New York City recently about the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme, which still beggars the imagination. How could it have happened?

They were getting together and they were talking. “Well what does this mean?” One person had the audacity to say, “Look, let’s not call this sin. Let’s not say there was anything wrong. This is the way people are. People are going to do this. People are going to cheat; they’re going to lie. They’re going to do this. This is why we need government regulation. The only hope is government regulation.”

But government is people. Soylent Green is people, but government is people. Oh, that’s terrible. You guys don’t know what Soylent Green is? Unless you’re a real movie geek, you need to go and Google “Soylent Green,” and then you’ll know. It has nothing to do with the sermon at all, so just please don’t even think about it for the rest of the sermon, or you’re going to hurt yourself. Government is people. We are all the same. That is the breadth of sin.

3. The depth of sin

Here’s what we mean. Human beings are radically relational. That’s what we’re made for. Remember, we’ve seen this as we’ve gone through Genesis 1–2. We’re in the image of God. That means we’re built to reflect or to relate to God. We saw we are built to be lonely without other human beings. We’re relational beings. We live for relationships.

What we see in these verses right here is every single relationship being destroyed by sin. Another way to put it is sin is a malignant tumor eating away at our very ability to conduct any relationship. Sin destroys our relationship with God, our relationship with ourselves, our relationship with others, and even our relationship with nature and the world around us. Look carefully quickly.

First of all, we see in these verses it destroys our relationship with God. In verse 8 we’re told God comes walking into the garden in the cool of the day. When the Bible says David walked with Jonathan, or Abraham walked with Lot, or something like that, of course it means they literally walked, but it means more than that. The word walking in Hebrew was an idiom that meant friendship, relationship.

The fact that God walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day meant he was coming in wanting friendship, seeking relationship, and we hid. Sin is running from God who wants a relationship with us. Why don’t we want a relationship with him? The answer is (we said already) sin now means our lives are about power, about getting power over other people, about saying, “I’ll have a relationship with you as long as it doesn’t get in the way of my needs, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of my happiness and my fulfillment.”

It’s always, “Your life to enhance me.” You’re happy to have relationships as long as they enhance you, as long as they build you up, as long as they make you feel good. What we don’t like is servanthood. We like consumer relationships. “As long as the cost-benefit analysis is working well and I’m getting as much or more out of you as you’re getting out of me, fine.”

We don’t like covenant, where you are committed to someone to serve somebody whether or not you’re getting anything out of it or not. We hate that. Covenant goes against the grain of the heart, because sin is now all about keeping control and having power. There’s no way for a finite being to walk with an infinite being without losing control, so we won’t have it.

Yes, it’s true most people in the world say they believe in God and they pray, but most people in the world do not actually have in their minds the real God, because most people have a god they can pray to when they want to and doesn’t really demand loss of control of your life, doesn’t really demand that you change your life. Haven’t you seen that? Isn’t that true of a lot of us? In which case, we’re actually running from God and hiding from ourselves the fact we’re running from God by essentially believing in a god who isn’t holy, isn’t infinite, isn’t sovereign.

So first, our relationship with God has been destroyed. As a result, our relationship with ourselves is destroyed. How do we see that? When Adam says, “The reason I hid from you is I was ashamed because I was naked.” In the Bible, just like walking is an idiom for something bigger than just walking, so nakedness is an idiom for something bigger than just being ashamed of being naked.

Nakedness is a sense of guilt, that there’s something wrong with me, a sense of shame, that I need to prove myself, I need to cover, I need to keep people from seeing who I am because they’ll reject me. Nakedness is a psychological dislocation, a lack of ease with who you are. When our relationship with God is severed, our relationship with ourselves is severed. That is to say, we really don’t want to admit what’s wrong with us. We really don’t want to admit the worst about ourselves.

See the one thing we don’t want to believe is that we’re utterly dependent on God. We want to think we need God occasionally or maybe not at all, but in our heart of hearts we know we’re utterly dependent on God, and therefore, we are in denial about who we really are. That’s where the shame comes from, and that’s where the guilt comes from, and that’s where this lack of ease with being able to admit who we are comes from.

Thirdly, our relationship with each other is destroyed. We already saw some of that when the man starts to throw the wife under the bus just to save his neck. Even the making of fig leaves in verse 7 … As soon as sin came into their hearts, they covered up from each other. They sewed fig leaves to cover up their nakedness, but they were covering up their nakedness from whom at that point? God wasn’t even around. From each other.

We cannot bear to have other people really know who we are. We have to control what other people see about us, because we have to maintain power and control. Because our relationships are now power relationships, not love and service relationships, our relationships with each other are messed up. Individually we have superficial relationships, exploitative relationships, but corporately, races don’t get along with each other, the genders don’t get along with each other. Because our relationships with God are messed up and our relationships with ourselves are messed up, so our relationships in the world are messed up.

Lastly, the fourth thing that’s destroyed here is even our relationship with nature, the physical environment. Verse 17 says instead of just going out there and tilling the ground and up comes nothing but, I guess, flowers and food, now thorns and thistles will come up. The dust is no longer your friend. There is a lack of mesh with the physical environment. There is a clash with the physical environment. It’s no longer our friend. Now we age, now we get sick, now there are natural disasters, and now we die. We came from dust, but what’s going to happen at the end?

Erma Bombeck, who used to write humor columns many years ago, generally for women, in newspapers, at one point said something like, “You know, my life is dominated by dirt. At this end of the house there’s dirt. There’s dirt in the bathroom, dirt on the plates in the kitchen, dirt in the rug. So I work to get rid of the dirt, and by the time I get to the other end of the house, the first end of the house is dirty again. It never ends. And in the end, after all of these years of struggling against dirt, struggling against dirt, what do I get? Six feet of dirt.”

That’s almost exactly what God says in Genesis 3:17–20. In the end the dust wins. Every one of our relationships has been decimated by sin.

4. The end of sin

Now, what’s God going to do about it? You know, even though the Bible has all kinds of authors … Every one of the books has a different author, yet the Holy Spirit is the Author behind the author, and therefore the Bible is, in a sense, a single book with a single author, and he, the Holy Spirit, is an incredibly good storyteller. What we have here in the midst of this incredible disaster is the most enigmatic, intriguing foreshadowing. What is the foreshadowing of what God is going to do about it in the future? What are we going to see?

First, look at the mercy of God’s heart. He comes in, and he doesn’t smite them. He says, “Where are you? What have you done? Have you done what I asked you not to do?” What does God want with those questions? God could not be seeking truth and illumination for himself. He knows the answer. The only reason God would be asking questions is if he’s trying to give truth and illumination to them.

He’s treating them as adults. He’s not treating them as objects. He’s not treating them as animals, or even as children. He’s doing what people in AA call an intervention. He is trying to get them to tell him what they should know. “Admit what you’ve done. Say who you are. Own it. Take responsibility.” It’s fascinating. He’s counseling them. He’s seeking them in love, asking the questions instead of just telling them what they’ve done wrong. Isn’t that something?

Notice really carefully, by the way, whereas he asks questions to Adam and Eve, he doesn’t ask any questions to Satan. Do you know what that means? God loves the sinner but hates the sin. God holds out hope for evildoers, but he will not compromise with evil. It’s very interesting. So first of all, we see God makes a distinction between the evildoers and evil, and he seeks in love to change people’s hearts.

Secondly, we see the mercy of his hand. The second thing he does is he makes garments for them. Isn’t that something? See they had sewed fig leaves all over themselves. When God makes garments for them, they need garments psychologically for privacy, now physically they need garments because we have a hostile environment and they need better things than fig leaves, and he makes garments out of animal skins.

Many people over the years have noticed this seems to be God’s hint, a pointer toward the sacrificial system, toward the atoning sacrifices of the temple and tabernacle, and eventually, the atoning sacrifice of Jesus himself. Therefore, when God clothes Adam and Eve, do you know what he’s saying? He says, “Someday I’m going to have to give salvation, but my salvation is holistic. You need forgiveness. You also need shelter from the stormy blast.”

Therefore, human beings who seek to spread God’s salvation out in the world have to deal with all of the results of sin: physical, spiritual, psychological, and social. That’s the reason we don’t just go out into the world to help people get their sins forgiven and connect to God, but we also feed and clothe. Derek Kidner in his commentary on Genesis on this passage says, “The coats of skins are forerunners of the welfare, both spiritual and physical, which man’s sin makes necessary. Therefore, social action could not have had an earlier or more exalted inauguration.” Interesting.

So we see the holistic nature of God’s hand, and we see the mercy of God’s heart, but what is he going to do? He says in verse 15. This is the enigmatic foreshadowing. He looks at the Serpent and he says, “Because you have done this, I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers. He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” There’s a lot to be said here, but here’s what we have to see.

Do you know what the picture is? Imagine a group of people, a family, and into the midst of them comes slithering as fast as it can (and you know how fast they can come) a snake, a venomous snake, a poisonous snake, coming right at them. One man goes after the snake, and he begins to stomp on it. Finally he crushes the head and saves the family, but only after, in the process, the snake bites him, the poison goes into him, and he dies. That’s the picture.

What God is saying is … This is amazing if you realize this snake is not just a snake but is Satan. It represents evil. God is saying one of the descendants of Adam and Eve, the seed of the woman, a human being, is going to destroy sin and death itself but get a fatal wound in the process. A human being is going to come, and he’s going to destroy sin and death, and in the process lose his life. I wonder who that could be.

You see, the first Adam should have done something like that, not just stood there and let the Serpent destroy his family. The first Adam should have jumped on the snake or stomped on the snake or whatever. But the second Adam will. It’s Jesus Christ. Keep this in mind. In Romans 4 Paul says, “In Christ your sins are covered.” In Romans 4 Paul says, “Blessed is the one whose sin is covered. Blessed is the one to whom God does not impute sin.”

Now we don’t like cover-up, do we? Cover-up, Watergate … that’s not good. No, cover-up when you’re just sweeping things under the rug is not good, but that’s not what’s happening here. What we’re being told is that Jesus Christ is going to deal with your sin. When he goes to the cross he’s going to deal with your sin so your sins can be covered, pardoned, forgiven. How? Look at the last verse.

When God sends Adam and Eve out of the garden, there’s a sword there, and nobody can get back into the presence of God. Nobody can get back into the garden. Nobody can get back into paradise. Nobody can get to heaven unless you go under the sword. What does the sword represent? The wages of sin, the justice of God. The wages of sin is death. Nobody can get back into paradise unless they go under the sword.

The Bible says in Isaiah that when the Messiah comes, the suffering servant, he will be cut off from the land of the living. Jesus Christ went under the sword. He opened a new and living way back into the presence of God. He went first, and the sword slew him. He has covered our sins. Here’s what it means to be a Christian. It’s not to say, “I’m going to try real hard to live a good life.”

To be a Christian means to say, “Father, cover my sin because of what Jesus Christ has done. Objectively cover it by pardoning my sin, but subjectively deal with the sin in my heart. I don’t feel loved. I don’t live loved. I’m trying to prove myself. I’m trying to get control. Let the love of what Jesus Christ did for me so flood my heart by the Holy Spirit I can start to serve people.”

You know what? A lot of people in New York … If there’s one thing I’ve seen over the years, it’s how hard everybody is working. Everybody is working so hard to achieve, and a lot of people are really upset. “I didn’t get into that graduate school. It’s not the top tier. I’m not there. I didn’t make that much money. I didn’t achieve. I’m gaining weight. Nobody wants to go out with me.” You’re really upset because you’re looking for beauty, and you’re looking to achievement, and you’re looking to accreditation and credentials.

Do you know what these things are? They’re fig leaves. They’re ways you’re trying to deal with the nakedness. You’re trying to deal with the sense that, “There’s something wrong with me, and I don’t quite know what it is.” Let Jesus Christ clothe you with his love. Accept what he has done. Ask God to receive you because of what Jesus Christ has done, and ask the Holy Spirit to make real to your heart what he has done for you.

That will begin not only to cover your sin objectively so God accepts you and you can go to heaven because of what Jesus has done, but subjectively it’ll start to heal your heart of sin, the canker, the cancer, the thing that’s destroying all of your relationships because you’re so nervous and so ashamed and you’re trying to prove yourself and you’re so needy. When the love of God comes in there, it changes everything. Ask God to cover you with the righteousness of Christ now so that someday you can be utterly covered with the very glory of God. Let’s pray.

Our Father, we’re so grateful it’s possible for us to know this horrible spiritual cancer, sin, has already, actually, been dealt with and is eventually going to be dealt with completely and is going to be over. Until then, we ask that you would help us to receive your salvation, your grace, into our lives in such a way that we can begin to more and more die unto sin and live more and more unto righteousness and be conformed to the image of your Son, in whose name we pray, amen.

ABOUT THE PREACHER

In 1989 Dr. Timothy J. Keller, his wife and three young sons moved to New York City to begin Redeemer Presbyterian Church. In 20 years it has grown to meeting for five services at three sites with a weekly attendance of over 5,000. Redeemer is notable not only for winning skeptical New Yorkers to faith, but also for partnering with other churches to do both mercy ministry and church planting.  Redeemer City to City is working to help establish hundreds of new multi-ethnic congregations throughout the city and other global cities in the next decades.

Dr. Tim Keller is the author of several phenomenal Christo-centric books including:

Joy for the World: How Christianity Lost Its Cultural Influence and Can Begin Rebuilding It (co-authored with Greg Forster and Collin Hanson (February or March, 2014).

Romans 1-7 For You (God’s Word For You Series). The Good Book Company (2014).

Encounters with Jesus:Unexpected Answers to Life’s Biggest Questions. New York, Dutton (November 2013).

Walking with God through Pain and Suffering. New York, Dutton (October 2013).

Judges For You (God’s Word For You Series). The Good Book Company (August 6, 2013).

Galatians For You (God’s Word For You Series). The Good Book Company (February 11, 2013).

Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Plan for the World. New York, Penguin Publishing, November, 2012.

Center ChurchDoing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, September, 2012.

The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness. New York: 10 Publishing, April 2012.

Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just. New York: Riverhead Trade, August, 2012.

The Gospel As Center: Renewing Our Faith and Reforming Our Ministry Practices (editor and contributor). Wheaton: Crossway, 2012.

The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God. New York, Dutton, 2011.

King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus (Retitled: Jesus the KIng: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God). New York, Dutton, 2011.

Gospel in Life Study Guide: Grace Changes Everything. Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 2010.

The Reason For God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. New York, Dutton, 2009.

Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Priorities of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope That Matters. New York, Riverhead Trade, 2009.

Heralds of the King: Christ Centered Sermons in the Tradition of Edmund P. Clowney (contributor). Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2009.

The Prodigal God. New York, Dutton, 2008.

Worship By The Book (contributor). Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002.

Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho Road. Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 1997.

 
 

 

 

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James Boice on God’s Glory Alone – Soli Deo Gloria

To him be the glory forever! Amen. – Romans 11:36

Romans 9-11 Boice 

The title of this study is not an exact translation of the second half of Romans 11:36, but I have selected it because it is the way the Protestant Reformers expressed what this verse is about and because the words, though in Latin, are well known. Soli Deo Gloria means “To God alone be the glory.” Soli Deo—“to God alone.” Gloria—“the glory.” These words stand virtually as a motto of the Reformation.

The Reformers loved the word solus (“alone”).

They wrote about sola Scriptura, which means “Scripture alone.” Their concern in using this phrase was with authority, and what they meant to say by it was that the Bible alone is our ultimate authority—not the pope, not the church, not the traditions of the church or church councils, still less personal intimations or subjective feelings, but Scripture only. These other sources of authority are sometimes useful and may at times have a place, but Scripture is ultimate. Therefore, if any of these other authorities differ from Scripture, they are to be judged by the Bible and rejected, rather than the other way around.

The Reformers also talked about sola fide, meaning “faith alone.” At this point they were concerned with the purity of the gospel, wanting to say that the believer is justified by God through faith entirely apart from any works he or she may have done or might do. Justification by faith alone became the chief doctrine of the Reformation.

The Reformers also spoke of sola gratia, which means “grace alone.” Here they wanted to insist on the truth that sinners have no claim upon God, that God owes them nothing but punishment for their sins, and that, if he saves them in spite of their sins, which he does in the case of the elect, it is only because it pleases him to do so. They taught that salvation is by grace only.

There is a sense in which each of these phrases is contained in the great Latin motto Soli Deo Gloria. In Romans 11:36, it follows the words “for from him and through him and to him are all things,” and it is because this is so, because all things really are “from him and through him and to him,” that we say, “To God alone be the glory.” Do we think about the Scripture? If it is from God, it has come to us through God’s agency and it will endure forever to God’s glory. Justification by faith? It is from God, through God, and to God’s glory. Grace? Grace, too, has its source in God, comes to us through the work of the Son of God, and is to God’s glory.

Many Christian organizations have taken these words as their motto or even as their name. I know of at least one publishing company today that is called Soli Deo Gloria. It is also an appropriate theme with which to end these studies of the third main (and last doctrinal) section of Paul’s letter to the Romans. Indeed, what greater theme could there be? For what is true of all things—that they are “from” God, “through” God, and “to” God—is true also of glory. Glory was God’s in the beginning, is God’s now, and shall be God’s forever. So we sing in what is called the Gloria Patri.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son

and to the Holy Ghost;

As it was in the beginning, is now

and ever shall be:

World without end. Amen.

Haldane’s Revival

At the beginning of this series—in volume 1, chapter 2—177 studies ago, I mentioned a revival that took place in Geneva, Switzerland, under the leadership of a remarkable Scotsman named Robert Haldane (1764–1842). He was one of two brothers who were members of the Scottish aristocracy in the late eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries. His brother, James Haldane (1768–1851), was a captain with the British East India Company. Robert was the owner of Gleneerie and other estates in Perthshire. When he was converted in the decade before 1800, Robert sold a major part of his lands and applied the proceeds to advancing the cause of Jesus Christ in Europe. James became an evangelist and later an influential pastor in Edinburgh, where he served for fifty-two years.

In the year 1815, Robert Haldane visited Geneva. One day when he was in a park reading his Bible, he got into a discussion with some young men who turned out to be theology students. They had not the faintest understanding of the gospel, so Haldane invited them to come to his rooms twice a week for Bible study. They studied Romans, and the result of those studies was the great Exposition of Romans by Haldane from which I so often quote.

All those students were converted and in time became leaders in church circles throughout Europe. One was Merle d’Aubigné, who became famous for his classic History of the Reformation in the Sixteenth Century. We know the first part of it as The Life and Times of Martin Luther. Another of these men was Louis Gaussen, author of Theopneustia, a book on the inspiration of the Scriptures. Others were Frédéric Monod, the chief architect and founder of the Free Churches in France; Bonifas, who became an important theologian; and César Malan, another distinguished leader. These men were so influential that the work of which they became a part was known as Haldane’s Revival.

What was it that got through to these young men, lifting them out of the deadly liberalism of their day and transforming them into the powerful force they became? The answer is: the theme and wording of the very verses we have been studying, Romans 11:33–36. In other words, a proper understanding of God’s sovereignty.

We know this because of a letter from Haldane to Monsieur Cheneviere, a pastor of the Swiss Reformed Church and Professor of Divinity at the University of Geneva. Cheneviere was an Arminian, as were all the Geneva faculty, but Haldane wrote to him to explain how appreciation of the greatness of God alone produced the changes in these men. Here is his explanation:

There was nothing brought under the consideration of the students of divinity who attended me at Geneva which appeared to contribute so effectually to overthrow their false system of religion, founded on philosophy and vain deceit, as the sublime view of the majesty of God presented in the four concluding verses of this part of the epistle: Of him, and through him, and to him, are all things. Here God is described as his own last end in everything that he does.

Judging of God as such an one as themselves, they were at first startled at the idea that he must love himself supremely, infinitely more than the whole universe, and consequently must prefer his own glory to everything besides. But when they were reminded that God in reality is infinitely more amiable and more valuable than the whole creation and that consequently, if he views things as they really are, he must regard himself as infinitely worthy of being more valued and loved, they saw that this truth was incontrovertible.

Their attention was at the same time directed to numerous passages of Scripture, which assert that the manifestation of the glory of God is the great end of creation, that he has himself chiefly in view in all his works and dispensations, and that it is a purpose in which he requires that all his intelligent creatures should acquiesce, and seek and promote it as their first and paramount duty.

A testimony like that leads me to suggest that the reason we do not see great periods of revival today is that the glory of God in all things has been largely forgotten by the contemporary church. It follows that we are not likely to see revival again until the truths that exalt and glorify God in salvation are recovered. Surely we cannot expect God to move among us greatly again until we can again truthfully say, “To him [alone] be the glory forever! Amen.”

To Him Be the Glory

Romans 11:36 is the first doxology in the letter. But it is followed by another at the end, which is like it, though more complete: “To the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen” (Rom. 16:27). It is significant that both doxologies speak of the glory of God, and that forever. Here are two questions to help us understand them.

1. Who is to be glorified?

The answer is: the sovereign God. For the most part, we start with man and man’s needs. But Paul always started with God, and he ended with him, too. In fact, the letter to the Romans is so clearly focused on God that it can be outlined accurately in these terms. Donald Grey Barnhouse published ten volumes on Romans, and he reflected Paul’s focus in the titles for these ten volumes, all but the first of which has God in the title. Volume one was Man’s Ruin. But then came God’s Wrath, God’s Remedy, God’s River, God’s Grace, God’s Freedom, God’s Heirs, God’s Covenants, God’s Discipline, and God’s Glory. We say with Paul, “To God be the glory forever! Amen.”

2. Why should God be glorified?

The answer is that “from him and through him and to him are all things,” particularly the work of salvation. Why is man saved? It is not because of anything in men and women themselves but because of God’s grace. It is because God has elected us to it. God has predestinated his elect people to salvation from before the foundation of the world. How is man saved? The answer is by the redeeming work of the Lord Jesus, the very Son of God. We could not save ourselves, but God saved us through the vicarious, atoning death of Jesus Christ. By what power are we brought to faith in Jesus? The answer is by the power of the Holy Spirit through what theologians call effectual calling. God’s call quickens us to new life. How can we become holy? Holiness is not something that originates in us, is achieved by us, or is sustained by us. It is due to God’s joining us to Jesus so that we have become different persons than we were before he did it. We have died to sin and been made alive to righteousness. Now there is no direction for us to go in the Christian life but forward. Where are we headed? Answer: to heaven, because Jesus is preparing a place in heaven for us. How can we be sure of arriving there? It is because God, who began the work of our salvation, will continue it until we do. God never begins a work that he does not eventually bring to a happy and complete conclusion.

“To him be the glory forever! Amen.”

The great Charles Hodge says of the verse we are studying;

Such is the appropriate conclusion of the doctrinal portion of this wonderful epistle, in which more fully and clearly than in any other portion of the Word of God, the plan of salvation is presented and defended. Here are the doctrines of grace, doctrines on which the pious in all ages and nations have rested their hopes of heaven, though they may have had comparatively obscure intimations of their nature. The leading principle of all is that God is the source of all good, that in fallen man there is neither merit nor ability, that salvation, consequently, is all of grace, as well satisfaction as pardon, as well election as eternal glory. For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things; to whom be glory forever. Amen.

So let us give God the glory, remembering that God himself says:

I am the Lord; that is my name!

I will not give my glory to another

or my praise to idols.

Isaiah 42:8

and

For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this.

How can I let myself be defamed?

I will not yield my glory to another.

Isaiah 48:11

People Who Give God Glory

What of the objections? What of those who object to the many imagined bad results of such God-directed teaching? Won’t people become immoral, since salvation, by this theory, is by grace rather than by works? Won’t they lose the power of making choices and abandon all sense of responsibility before God and other people? Won’t people cease to work for worthwhile goals and quit all useful activity? Isn’t a philosophy that tries to glorify God in all things a catastrophe?

A number of years ago, Roger R. Nicole, professor of systematic theology at Gordon-Conwell Divinity School in South Hamilton, Massachusetts, and now at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida, answered such objections in a classic address for the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology (1976), basing his words on an earlier remarkable address by Emile Doumergue, a pastor who for many years was dean of an evangelical seminary in southern France. Nicole’s address was likewise titled “Soli Deo Gloria.” The quotations below are from his answers to three important questions.

1. Doesn’t belief in the sovereignty of God encourage evil by setting people free from restraints? Doesn’t it make morality impossible?

“I suppose one could proceed to discuss this in a theological manner—to examine arguments, consider objections, and line up points in an orderly disposition. I would like, however, instead of going into a theological discussion, to challenge you in terms of an historical consideration. In the Reformation, there was a group of men who made precisely these assertions. Over against the prevailing current, they said that man is radically corrupt and is therefore totally unable by himself to please God. He is incapable of gathering any merits, let alone merit for others. But did these assertions damage morality? Were these people a group of scoundrels who satisfied their own sinful cravings under the pretense of giving glory to God? One does not need to be very versed in church history to know that this was not so. There were at that time thefts, murders, unjust wars. Even within the church there was a heinous and shameful trafficking of sacred positions.

“But what happened?

“These people, who believed that man is corrupt and that only God can help him, came forward like a breath of fresh air. They brought in a new recognition of the rights of God and of his claim upon the lives of men. They brought in new chastity, new honesty, new unselfishness, new humbleness, and a new concern for others. “Honest like the Huguenots,” they used to say. … Immorality was not promoted; it was checked by the recognition of the sovereignty of God.

“ ‘That is impossible,’ some say. Yet it happened.”

2. Doesn’t belief in the sovereignty of God eliminate man’s sense of responsibility and destroy human freedom? Doesn’t it destroy potential?

“Again, rather than going into the arguments of the matter, let us merely examine what happened in the sixteenth century when the sovereignty of God was asserted. Did the people involved allow themselves to be robbed of all initiative? Were they reduced to slavery under the power of God? Not at all! On the contrary, they were keenly aware of their responsibility. They had the sense that for everything they were doing, saying and thinking they were accountable to God. They lived their lives in the presence of God, and in the process they were pioneers in establishing and safe-guarding precious liberties—liberty of speech, religion and expression—all of which are at the foundation of the liberties we cherish in the democratic world.

“Far from eclipsing their sense of freedom, the true proclamation of the sovereignty of God moved them toward the recognition and expression of all kinds of human freedoms which God has himself provided for those whom he has created and redeemed.

“ ‘It is impossible that this should happen,’ we are told. Perhaps! But it happened.”

3. Doesn’t commitment to God’s sovereignty undercut strenuous human activity? Doesn’t it make people passive?

“We may make an appeal to history. What did these people—Calvin, Farel, Knox, Luther—what did they do? Were they people who reclined on a soft couch, saying, ‘If God is pleased to do something in Geneva, let him do it. I will not get in his way’? Or, ‘If God wants to have some theses nailed to the door of the chapel of Wittenberg Castle, let him take the hammer. I will not interfere’? You know very well that this is not so. These were not people lax in activity. They were not lazy. Calvin may be accused of many things, but one thing he has seldom been accused of is laziness. No, when the sovereignty of God is recognized, meaningfulness comes to human activity. Then, instead of seeing our efforts as the puny movements of insignificant people unable to resist the enormous momentum of a universe so much larger than ourselves, we see our activity in the perspective of a sovereign plan in which even small and insignificant details may be very important. Far from undermining activity, the doctrine of the sovereignty of God has been a strong incentive for labor, devotion, evangelism and missions.

“ ‘Impossible!’ Yet it happened.”

God’s Blessings for Our World

Nicole continues: “In the first century the world was in a frightful condition. One does not need to be a great authority on Roman history to know that. There were signs of the breakdown of the Roman Empire—rampant hedonism and a dissolution of morals. But at that point God was pleased to send into the world that great preacher of the sovereignty of God, the apostle Paul, and this introduced a brand new principle into the total structure. The preaching of Paul did not avert the collapse of the Roman Empire, but it postponed it. Moreover, it permitted the creation of a body of believers that persisted through the terrible invasions of the barbarian hordes, and even through the Dark Ages. …

“In the sixteenth century … the church had succumbed to deep corruption. It was corrupt ‘in its head and members.’ In many ways it was a cesspool of iniquity. People did not know how to remedy the situation. They tried councils, internal purges, monastic orders. None of these things seemed to work. But God again raised up to his glory men who proclaimed the truth of his sovereignty, the truth of God’s grace. In proclaiming this truth they brought a multitude of the children of God into a new sense of their dependence upon and relationship to Christ. In proclaiming this truth they benefited even the very people who opposed them in the tradition of the church. They are small, these men of the Reformation. They had little money, little power and little influence. One was a portly little monk in Germany. Another was a frail little professor in Geneva. A third was a ruddy but lowly little man in Scotland. What could they do? In themselves, nothing. But by the power of God they shook the world.

Radically corrupted, but sovereignly purified!

Radically enslaved, but sovereignly emancipated!

Radically unable, but sovereignly empowered!

“These men were the blessing of God for our world.”

“To God alone be glory!” To those who do not know God that is perhaps the most foolish of all statements. But to those who do know God, to those who are being saved, it is not only a right statement, it is a happy, wise, true, inescapable, and highly desirable confession. It is our glory to make it. “To him be the glory forever! Amen.”

 SOURCE: James Montgomery Boice. Expositions on Romans. Volume 3. God and History (Romans 9-11). Chapter 179, “Soli Deo Gloria” based on Romans 11:36.

 

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James Boice Sermon: “The Sixth Day” – Genesis 1:24-27

SERIES: GENESIS – PART 11

Genesis 1-11 vol 1 Boice

And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

So God created man in his own image,

in the image of God he created him;

male and female he created them. – Genesis 1:24-27

In our study of the days of creation I have set the sixth day off from the other five, because man is created on the sixth day and there is something special about his creation. He is the peak of creation. Moreover, from this point on the story of Genesis is the story of man—in rebellion against God but also as the object of his special love and redemption.

To say that man is the most important part of creation might be thought a chauvinistic statement, as though we might as easily say, if we were fish, that fish are most important. But this is not true. Men and women actually are higher than the forms of creation around them. They rule over creation, for one thing—not by mere force of strength, for many animals are stronger, but by the power of their minds and personalities. Men and women also have “God-consciousness,” which the animals do not have. No animal is guilty of moral or spiritual sin. Nor do animals consciously “glorify God, and enjoy him forever.” The Bible stresses man’s high position when it says toward the end of the creation account: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (vv. 26–27).

In these verses the uniqueness of man and his superiority to the rest of creation are expressed in three ways. First, he is said to have been made “in God’s image.” This is not said of either objects or animals. Second, he is given dominion over the fish, birds, animals, and even the earth itself. Third, there is a repetition of the word “created.” This word is used at only three points in the creation narrative: first, when God created matter from nothing (v. 1); second, when God created conscious life (v. 21); and third, when God created man (v. 27). This is a progression, from the body (matter) to soul (personality) to spirit (life with God-consciousness). Lest we should miss this, the word “create” is repeated three times over in reference to the man and woman. As Francis Schaeffer writes, “It is as though God put exclamation points here to indicate that there is something special about the creation of man” (Schaeffer, Genesis in Space and Time, 33).

How Old is Man?

How old is man? This is a troublesome question, because there seems to be a conflict between the account in Genesis and the apparent evidence of science on this point. The various biblical genealogies (Genesis 5 is the earliest example) suggest that man is on the order of thousands—perhaps ten or twenty thousands—of years old. But anthropologists speak of man or manlike creatures being on the order of 3.5 to 4 million years old. The work of the Leakey family in Kenya and Tanzania provides the best-known examples.

What are we to say of this conflict? It may be impossible to resolve it finally at this stage of our knowledge, but the issues can be put in proportion. First, we must say that this seems to be a real conflict and not merely a case in which we are dealing with two different ways of looking at the same evidence. It has been pointed out by biblical scholars, among them no less a scholar than Princeton’s B. B. Warfield, that the biblical genealogies are not necessarily all-inclusive when they list a series of descendants. That is to say, they may (and in fact do) leave gaps, so that a person identified as a “son” of the person coming before him in the list need not necessarily be a literal son but may be a grandson or great-grandson. Moreover, the gaps may sometimes be quite large, as for example, the summation of the genealogy of Jesus Christ occurring in Matthew 1:1 (“the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham”). Because of this, it is possible, even probable, that the genealogies of Genesis, which suggest a creation of Adam in a time scale of approximately four thousand years before Christ (Bishop Ussher’s date was 4004 b.c.), are actually summations of much longer periods. Still, even if we multiply the figure of four thousand years three, four, or even five times, we are far from what most anthropologists are claiming. An origin of the race on the order of twelve thousand to twenty thousand years ago is very different from an origin of 3.5 to 4 million years ago.

It helps to put the fossil evidence in perspective, however, for not all fossils claimed to be human are necessarily so. Skeletal materials found at sites from historical times are essentially the same as those of modern man, called Homo sapiens (“thinking” or “discerning man”). But as one goes back beyond historical times there are increasing differences. Cro-Magnon man, who is prehistoric and whose remains have been found scattered widely throughout western Europe, was similar to people who exist today. He used bone and stone tools and made cave paintings of animals and other features of his world. Slightly farther back (on the order of one hundred thousand years) is the so-called Neanderthal man. He also used tools and buried his dead. But he was less human in appearance, having a receding forehead and a pronounced jaw. He seems to have been more apelike. Remains of this “man” were found in Europe, Israel, Zambia, and Rhodesia. Still farther back are a number of other essentially “modern” types found in France, Germany, and England, dating from perhaps 250,000 years ago, according to the most accepted calculations.

The so-called Peking man and Java man date from between five hundred thousand to 1 million years ago. Sometimes crude tools have been found with these skeletons, but the chief reason for their being regarded as humans is that they apparently walked upright, hence are designated Homo erectus. Most anthropologists would call Homo erectus the first truly modern man. The discoveries of Richard and Mary Leakey in Africa, while frequently referred to as evidences of ancient men in the secular press, are at best prehuman creatures, even by the Leakeys’ own judgments. They apparently walked upright, but they were quite small—about four feet in height—and had a brain capacity of about one-third that of modern man. The general impression one has of the skulls is that they represent extinct apelike rather than manlike forms.

One other perspective needs to be thrown on this problem: the uncertainty in dating these apparently ancient human ancestors. One case is particularly worth noting. In the Paluxy River basin in central Texas, near the town of Glen Rose, fossilized tracks of men and dinosaurs apparently appear together. This does not mean that either men or dinosaurs are of relatively recent history. Both may be quite ancient. But it does mean that something is wrong with the currently accepted time framework proposed by evolutionists, for according to that framework there should be a 60-million-year gap between the last of the dinosaurs and man. Clearly, there may yet be great revisions in what anthropologists and other scientists are proposing.

In the interim what may Christians, who hold to the truthfulness of Genesis and who still want to be honest where scientific data is concerned, conclude? One scientist, Robert A. Erb of Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, concludes that fossil “man” is not necessarily man and that Christians do themselves a disservice when they regard all such as Adam’s descendants. He writes, “I believe in a historical Adam and would tend to date him near the beginning of the Neolithic (new stone) age in the Near East (about 8,000 b.c.). Indeed, this step in the creative work of God may be the cause of what is known as the Neolithic Revolution, with the domestication of plants and animals, the building of cities, the invention of pottery, the beginnings of writing and such things. That Adam does not belong to the Upper Paleolithic age of 30,000 years ago is suggested by: the domestication of plants and animals in the account of Cain and Abel (Gen. 4:2) and Cain building a city (Gen. 4:17). In about six generations (neglecting the probable gaps in genealogy), Tubal-cain was working with metals (Gen. 4:22) and Jubal was making music (Gen. 4:21).”

The conclusion is that, while the earth and universe may indeed be quite old (on the order of billions of years), there is no need to insist that man is millions of years old. His creation by God may be as recent as the genealogies of Genesis seem to indicate.

In God’s Image

When Genesis 1 speaks of the creation of man, as it does several times over, it is not concerned with the time at which he was created. What concerns the author of Genesis is man’s being created “in God’s image.” This is repeated several times: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness. …’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him.” What does this mean? What does it mean to be made in God’s image?

One thing it means is that men and women possess the attributes of personality, as God himself does, but as the animals, plants, and matter do not. To have personality one must possess knowledge, feelings (including religious feelings), and a will. This God has, and so do we. We can say that animals possess a certain kind of personality. But an animal does not reason as men do; it only reacts to certain problems or stimuli. It does not create; it only conforms to certain behavior patterns, even in as elaborate a pattern as constructing a nest, hive, or dam. It does not love; it only reproduces. It does not worship. Personality, in the sense we are speaking of it here, is something that links man to God but does not link either man or God to the rest of creation.

A second element that is involved in man’s being created in the image of God is morality. This includes the two further elements of freedom and responsibility. To be sure, the freedom men and women possess is not absolute. Even in the beginning the first man, Adam, and the first woman, Eve, were not autonomous. They were creatures and were responsible for acknowledging this by their obedience in the matter of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Since the fall that freedom has been further restricted so that, as Augustine said, the original posse non peccare (“able not to sin”) has become a non posse non peccare (“not able not to sin”). Still there is a limited freedom for men and women even in their fallen state, and with that there is also moral responsibility. In brief, we do not need to sin as we do or as often as we do. And even when we sin under compulsion (as may sometimes be the case), we still know it is wrong and, thus, inadvertently confess our likeness to God in this as in other areas.

It is relevant to the matter of morality that, when the sanctification of the believer is spoken of as being “renewed in knowledge in the image of [his] Creator” (Col. 3:10) or “conformed to the likeness of his Son” (Rom. 8:29), it is the moral righteousness of the individual that is most in view, though of course this may also refer to the perfection of personality in ways we do not as yet understand fully.

The third element involved in man’s being made in God’s image is spirituality, meaning that man is made for communion with God, who is Spirit (John 4:24), and that this communion is intended to be eternal as God is eternal. Although man shares a body with such forms of life as plants or flowers and a soul with animals, only he possesses a spirit. It is on the level of the spirit that he is aware of God and communes with him.

Here lies our true worth. We are made in God’s image and are therefore valuable to God and others. God loves men and women, as he does not and cannot love the animals, plants, or inanimate matter. Moreover, he feels for them, identifies with them in Christ, grieves for them, and even intervenes in history to make individual men and women into all that he has determined they should be. We get some idea of the special nature of this relationship when we remember that in a similar way the woman, Eve, was made in the image of man. Therefore, though different, Adam saw himself in her and loved her as his companion and corresponding member in the universe. It is not wrong to say that men and women are to God somewhat as the woman is to the man. They are God’s unique and valued companions. In support of this we need only think of the Bible’s teaching concerning Christ as the bridegroom and the church as his bride.

A Shattered Image

In this chapter we have been looking at man as God made him and intends him to be, that is, before the fall or as he will eventually become again in Christ. Although man was made in the image of God, this image has been greatly marred by sin. There are vestiges of the image remaining, but man today is not what God intended. He is a fallen being, and the effects of the fall are seen on each level of his being: in his body, soul, and spirit.

When God gave man the test of the forbidden tree, which was to be a measure of his obedience and responsibility toward the One who had created him, God said, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die” (Gen. 2:16–17). The woman was beguiled by the serpent and ate. She came to Adam; and Adam, who was not beguiled, nevertheless ate of it too, thereby saying to God, “I do not care for all the trees that you have given me; so long as this tree stands here in the midst of the garden it reminds me of my dependence on you, and therefore I hate it; I will eat of it, regardless of the consequences, and die.”

Man’s spirit, that part of him that had communion with God, died instantly. This is clear from the fact that he ran from God when God came to him in the garden. Men and women have been running and hiding ever since. His soul, the seat of his intellect, feelings, and identity, began to die. So people began to lose a sense of who they are, gave vent to bad feelings, and suffered the decay of their intellect. This is the type of decay described by Paul in Romans 1 where we are told that, having rejected God, men inevitably “became futile [in their thinking] and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles” (vv. 21–23). Eventually even the body died. So it is said of us, “Dust you are and to dust you will return” (Gen. 3:19).

Donald Grey Barnhouse has pictured what happened as a three-story house that was bombed in wartime. The bomb had destroyed the top floor entirely, the debris of which had fallen down into the second floor, severely damaging it. The weight of the two ruined floors produced cracks in the walls of the first floor so that it was doomed to collapse eventually. Thus it was with Adam. His body was the dwelling of the soul, and his spirit was above that. When he fell the spirit was entirely destroyed, the soul ruined, and the body destined to a final collapse.

However, the glory of the gospel is seen at precisely this point, for when God saves a person he saves the whole person, beginning with the spirit, continuing with the soul, and finishing with the body. The salvation of the spirit comes first; for God first establishes contact with the one who has rebelled against him. This is regeneration, the new birth. Second, God works with the soul, renewing it after the image of the perfect man, the Lord Jesus Christ. This work is sanctification. Finally, there is the resurrection in which even the body is redeemed from destruction.

Moreover, God makes a new creation, for he does not merely patch up the old spirit, soul, and body, as if the collapsing house were just being buttressed and given a new coat of paint. God creates a new spirit that is his own Spirit within the individual. He creates a new soul, known as the new man. At last, he creates a new body. This body is like the resurrection body of the Lord Jesus Christ through whom alone we have this salvation.

About the Preacher

Boice JM in pulpit

James Montgomery Boice, Th.D., (July 7, 1938 – June 15, 2000) was a Reformed theologian, Bible teacher, and pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia from 1968 until his death. He is heard on The Bible Study Hour radio broadcast and was a well-known author and speaker in evangelical and Reformed circles. He also served as Chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy for over ten years and was a founding member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. James Boice was one of my favorite Bible teachers. Thankfully – many of his books and expositions of Scripture are still in print and more are becoming available. The sermon above was adapted from Chapter 11 in Genesis 1-11: An Expositional Commentaryvol. 1: Creation and Fall. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006.

Under Dr. Boice’s leadership, Tenth Presbyterian Church became a model for ministry in America’s northeastern inner cities. When he assumed the pastorate of Tenth Church there were 350 people in regular attendance. At his death the church had grown to a regular Sunday attendance in three services of more than 1,200 persons, a total membership of 1,150 persons. Under his leadership, the church established a pre-school for children ages 3-5 (now defunct), a high school known as City Center Academy, a full range of adult fellowship groups and classes, and specialized outreach ministries to international students, women with crisis pregnancies, homosexual and HIV-positive clients, and the homeless. Many of these ministries are now free-standing from the church.

Dr. Boice gave leadership to groups beyond his own organization. For ten years he served as Chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, from its founding in 1977 until the completion of its work in 1988. ICBI produced three classic, creedal documents: “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics” and “The Chicago Statement on the Application of the Bible to Contemporary Issues.” The organization published many books, held regional “Authority of Scripture” seminars across the country, and sponsored the large lay “Congress on the Bible I,” which met in Washington, D.C., in September 1987. He also served on the Board of Bible Study Fellowship.

He founded the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals (Alliance) in 1994, initially a group of pastors and theologians who were focused on bringing the 20th and now 21st century church to a new reformation. In 1996 this group met and wrote the Cambridge Declaration. Following the Cambridge meetings, the Alliance assumed leadership of the programs and publications formerly under Evangelical Ministries, Inc. (Dr. Boice) and Christians United for Reformation (Horton) in late 1996.

Dr. Boice was a prodigious world traveler. He journeyed to more than thirty countries in most of the world’s continents, and he taught the Bible in such countries as England, France, Canada, Japan, Australia, Guatemala, Korea and Saudi Arabia. He lived in Switzerland for three years while pursuing his doctoral studies.

Dr. Boice held degrees from Harvard University (A.B.), Princeton Theological Seminary (B.D.), the University of Basel, Switzerland (D. Theol.) and the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Episcopal Church (D.D., honorary).

A prolific author, Dr. Boice had contributed nearly forty books on a wide variety of Bible related themes. Most are in the form of expositional commentaries, growing out of his preaching: Psalms (1 volume), Romans (4 volumes), Genesis (3 volumes), Daniel, The Minor Prophets (2 volumes), The Sermon on the Mount, John (5 volumes, reissued in one), Ephesians, Phillippians and The Epistles of John. Many more popular volumes: Hearing God When You Hurt, Mind Renewal in a Mindless Christian Life, Standing on the Rock, The Parables of Jesus, The Christ of Christmas, The Christ of the Open Tomb and Christ’s Call to Discipleship. He also authored Foundations of the Christian Faith a 740-page book of theology for laypersons. Many of these books have been translated into other languages, such as: French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Chinese and Korean.

He was married to Linda Ann Boice (born McNamara), who continues to teach at the high school they co-founded.

Source: Taken directly from the Aliance of Confessing Evangelicals’ Website

James Montgomery Boice’s Books:

1970 Witness and Revelation in the Gospel of John (Zondervan)
1971 Philippians: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1972 The Sermon on the Mount (Zondervan)
1973 How to Live the Christian Life (Moody; originally, How to Live It Up,
Zondervan)
1974 Ordinary Men Called by God (Victor; originally, How God Can Use
Nobodies)
1974 The Last and Future World (Zondervan)
1975-79 The Gospel of John: An Expositional Commentary (5 volumes,
Zondervan; issued in one volume, 1985; 5 volumes, Baker 1999)
1976 “Galatians” in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Zondervan)
1977 Can You Run Away from God? (Victor)
1977 Does Inerrancy Matter? (Tyndale)
1977 Our Sovereign God, editor (Baker)
1978 The Foundation of Biblical Authority, editor (Zondervan)
1979 The Epistles of John: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1979 Making God’s Word Plain, editor (Tenth Presbyterian Church)
1980 Our Savior God: Studies on Man, Christ and the Atonement, editor (Baker)
1982-87 Genesis: An Expositional Commentary (3 volumes, Zondervan)
1983 The Parables of Jesus (Moody)
1983 The Christ of Christmas (Moody)
1983-86 The Minor Prophets: An Expositional Commentary (2 volumes,
Zondervan)
1984 Standing on the Rock (Tyndale). Reissued 1994 (Baker)
1985 The Christ of the Open Tomb (Moody)
1986 Foundations of the Christian Faith (4 volumes in one, InterVarsity
Press; original volumes issued, 1978-81)
1986 Christ’s Call to Discipleship (Moody)
1988 Transforming Our World: A Call to Action, editor (Multnomah)
1988, 98 Ephesians: An Expositional Commentary (Baker)
1989 Daniel: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1989 Joshua: We Will Serve the Lord (Revell)
1990 Nehemiah: Learning to Lead (Revell)
1992-94 Romans (4 volumes, Baker)
1992 The King Has Come (Christian Focus Publications)
1993 Amazing Grace (Tyndale)
1993 Mind Renewal in a Mindless Age (Baker)
1994-98 Psalms (3 volumes, Baker)
1994 Sure I Believe, So What! (Christian Focus Publications)
1995 Hearing God When You Hurt (Baker)
1996 Two Cities, Two Loves (InterVarsity)
1996 Here We Stand: A Call from Confessing Evangelicals, editor with
Benjamin E. Sasse (Baker)
1997 Living By the Book (Baker)
1997 Acts: An Expositional Commentary (Baker)
1999 The Heart of the Cross, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)
1999 What Makes a Church Evangelical?
2000 Hymns for a Modern Reformation, with Paul S. Jones
2001 Matthew: An Expositional Commentary (2 volumes, Baker)
2001 Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace? (Crossway)
2002 The Doctrines of Grace, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)
2002 Jesus on Trial, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)

Chapters

1985 “The Future of Reformed Theology” in David F. Wells, editor,
Reformed Theology in America: A History of Its Modern Development
(Eerdmans)
1986 “The Preacher and Scholarship” in Samuel T. Logan, editor, The
Preacher and Preaching: Reviving the Art in the Twentieth Century
(Presbyterian and Reformed)
1992 “A Better Way: The Power of Word and Spirit” in Michael Scott
Horton, editor, Power Religion: The Selling Out of the Evangelical Church?
(Moody)
1994 “The Sovereignty of God” in John D. Carson and David W. Hall,
editors, To Glorify and Enjoy God: A Commemoration of the 350th
Anniversary of the Westminster Assembly (Banner of Truth Trust)

SOURCE: from the Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, website

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2014 in James Montgomery Boice, Sermons

 

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Tim Keller Sermon: Paradise in Crisis – Genesis 3:1-9

Series The Bible: The Whole Story Part 2 – Creation and Fall

Tim Keller teaching at RPC image

Preached in Manahattan, New York, January 11, 2009

 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ”

“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” – Genesis 3:1-9

In this series of sermons we’re trying to get across that the Bible is not a series of disconnected stories, each one with a little moral for how to live, but it’s actually primarily a single story about what went wrong with the human race and what will put it right. Figuring out what went wrong with the human race is actually really important.

Beatrice Webb, who was one of the architects of the modern British welfare system … She and her husband and some others founded the London School of Economics. She was a socialist, an activist, a British leader. She kept a diary, and in 1925 she went back and looked at her older diary, and she wrote, “In my diary, 1890, I wrote, ‘I have staked everything on the essential goodness of human nature.’

Now, 35 years later, I realize how permanent are the evil impulses and instincts in us and how little they seem to change, like greed for wealth and power, and how mere social machinery will never change that. We must ask better things from human nature, but will we get a response? No amount of science or knowledge has been of any avail, and unless we curb the bad impulse, how will we get better social institutions?”

That’s a remarkable statement from somebody who ought to know. She is saying there is something so wrong with us that leads to selfishness and violence, that leads to corruption in business and corruption in government, that leads to war and atrocities, and that’s consistent across history.

She says science hasn’t dealt with it. Education hasn’t dealt with it. Social machinery hasn’t dealt with it. Who will explain it? Chapter 3 and chapter 4 of Genesis do, and we’re looking at them for four weeks. Let’s start with this very famous text, and let’s learn what we can by noticing four features of the narrative: the sneer, the lie, the tree, and the call.

The story starts with a sneer. It says, “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God really say, “You must not eat from any tree in the garden”?’ ” Satan is speaking through the serpent. Right away readers say, “Who is Satan, and where did he come from, and what’s wrong with him, and how did he get that way?” but this text is about us. It doesn’t tell us anything about that. It’s here to explain how we got to be the way we are, and how we are now.

If we read it that way, it’s incredibly instructive, but if we ask, “Where did he come from, and what’s all this?” it doesn’t. It’s all right. That’s not what we need to know right now. It’s not the most important thing we ever need to know. What we see is the fall of the human race starts not with an action, but with an attitude, not with an act, but with a sneer. This word translated really, which could also be translated indeed … “Indeed, did he really say …?” It shows the sense of this is not that the Serpent is denying what God said; he’s mocking what God said.

He’s not saying God didn’t say it; he’s saying it’s ridiculous. It’s laughable. The sense of it is if you ever hear somebody say something like this: “Did he really say that?” That doesn’t mean he’s asking, “Did it really happen?” No, he’s saying, “Was he such an idiot, such a jerk, to say that? Did he really say that?” He is not denying God said it; he’s mocking it. He’s trying to get Adam and Eve to laugh at it. He’s trying to change their attitudes toward it. Therefore, the fall of the human race starts not with an action, or even with a thought, but with an attitude of heart.

We’re going to learn two things from this. The first thing (though this doesn’t always happen, I think this happens a lot) is, more often than not, we lose God not through argument, but through atmosphere. For example, here’s a little speech in a novel. It’s about two people who went to college and lost their Christian faith, and then one person gets it back later.

The person speaking got the faith back and is talking to the other person about how they “lost” their faith in college. He says, “Let’s be frank. We found ourselves in contact with a certain current of ideas and plunged into it because it seemed modern and successful. At college we started automatically writing the kinds of essays that got good marks and saying the kinds of things that won applause.

We were afraid of the label ‘fundamentalism,’ afraid of a breach with the spirit of the age, afraid of ridicule. Having allowed ourselves to drift, accepting every half-conscious solicitation from our desires, we reached a point where we no longer believed the faith, in the same way a drunken man reaches a point in which he believes another glass will do him no harm.”

I don’t want anybody to think I’m saying that’s how people lose the faith in college. Very often people lose their faith through argument, but not usually. They usually lose it through sneers. Everybody is sneering. Everybody is snarky. Everybody is saying, “You really believe that?” or “He really believes that?” “Does she really believe that?” You just want to go into your shell. You want to go along. You very often lose God not through argument, but through atmosphere.

Over the years, I have to say, for every one argument I’ve gotten against Christian belief I get 99 sneers. When somebody says, “Do you really believe that?” a proper measured response would be, “Well, that’s an assertion trying to create an atmosphere; it’s not really an argument. So could you please tell me why you think what I believe is untenable?” Just file that. So first of all, I think we learn here we tend to lose God as much, if not more, from atmosphere than argument.

Secondly, humor. The fall of the human race happened through an attitude of the heart that was expressed through a particular kind of humor. Here’s what I’d like us to think about, at least briefly. There’s a kind of humor that is actually an expression of humility. It persuades, it’s humble, and it says we’re all alike. And there’s a kind of humor that is an exercise of the will for power. It’s serpentine. It’s a way of putting somebody else down so it puts you up.

There’s a kind of humor that brings us all down and deflates and gets us to talk, and there’s a kind of humor that puts one group or one person up and smashes everybody to the ground. It’s serpentine. Do you know the difference? One brought about the fall of the human race and will bring about your fall, and one actually can be healing.

W.H. Auden wrote some wonderful essays and did some wonderful lectures on Shakespeare, doing literary criticism of Shakespeare. In a couple of his essays, he says he believed Shakespeare, whether he was personally a Christian or not, had a Christian view of human nature and the world, and therefore, Shakespearean comedy was different than Greek classical comedy.

Auden says in Greek classical comedy, the comedy ends with the audience laughing and the characters on stage in tears, but in Shakespeare comedies, like Much Ado About Nothing, it always ends with everybody laughing. The people out there are laughing and the people up here are laughing. Why? He says the Greek classical idea was what is funny is “Look at those fools up there. They’re not sophisticated like us.” Therefore, the audience is led by the comedy to laugh at the people up there because they lack the sophistication of the audience.

But, he says in one of his essays, there’s a different kind of humor Shakespeare had. He says comedies like Much Ado About Nothing are based on the belief that all men are sinners, and therefore, no one, whatever his rank or talents, should claim immunity from the comic exposure. Then Auden goes on and talks about the fact the Christian gospel turns the Greek idea of excellence and sophistication on its head.

In Christianity the ultimate excellence is to know you need the comic exposure to see your own pretensions and pride exposed and to seek forgiveness. He says, “Therefore, in Shakespeare the characters are exposed and forgiven, and when the curtain falls, the audience and the characters are all laughing together.”

David Denby, a movie critic for the New Yorker, wrote a book that’s coming out this week called Snark. In it he’s talking about how there’s a kind of humor that puts everybody down and says everybody is full of it and everybody is out for themselves. New York magazine this week wrote a snarky review of the book. It says, “When you have a society filled with BS, you just have to get up and say it’s filled with BS, and I’m going to get up and say it’s filled with BS.”

Auden would say that’s classical. That’s Greek comedy. What you’re really saying is, “Everybody but me is filled with BS. Everybody but me is out for themselves.” There is a kind of humility that says we human beings need to be laughed at. Look at our pretensions. And there is a kind of cynicism that is corrosive, that laughs at any truth claims, any claims that this is right and this is wrong, and is, therefore, basically serpentine, putting yourself in the judgment seat.

What will happen is that kind of cynical, corrosive, serpentine humor that says “Everybody is filled with BS but me, everybody is on the take, everybody is out for themselves but me,” leaves you in the end with no meaning in life. That can’t give you meaning in life. It leaves you in the end without friends. It’s serpentine. The Serpent laughs at you. If you laugh like the Serpent, the Serpent in the end will laugh like you.

Secondly, the fall of the human race proceeds with a lie. The next thing you see is after the attitude of the heart comes a lie for the mind. We see it here in verse 4. God has said, “Don’t eat of this tree,” and the Serpent comes back in verse 4 and says, “You will not surely die, for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened.”

Here’s what he’s saying. “God, if you obey him, will keep you down. God knows if you do this and this you’ll broaden your horizons, but he doesn’t want you to.” What Satan is trying to get into the heart of the human race is “If you obey God, you’ll miss out. If you obey God, you won’t be happy. If you obey the will of God, it’ll cut you off from other options. It will keep you from being all you want to be. You will not thrive and flourish.”

What’s so extremely interesting to see here is that Satan knows what is really crucial to destroy. Notice Satan does not go after the existence of God. He doesn’t say, “The only way I’m going to destroy the human race is to get everybody to disbelieve in God.” Heck no. He knows the whole human race can believe in God. Practically the whole human race does believe in God, and it’s a mess. That’s not the issue.

He also doesn’t actually go after the law or the will or the holiness of God. He doesn’t say, “Oh, God doesn’t care what you do.” He doesn’t say, “God doesn’t say you can’t eat of that tree.” He doesn’t deny the existence of God. He doesn’t deny the law of God, the will of God, the holiness of God. He denies the goodness of God. He denies the goodness and the love and the grace and the good will of God behind all of those decrees.

He says, “If you obey God, you can’t trust his good will. You can’t trust him. You’re going to have to take your life into your own hands.” That lie went in, and that lie is in my heart and that lie is in your heart. Do you know what it’s doing? It’s doing a lot. Why is it we say, “I know the Bible says I shouldn’t sleep with this person I’m not married to, but it would be great”? “I know the Bible says I shouldn’t spend all this money on myself; I should give it away, but it would be great to spend it all on myself.” “I know I’m not supposed to hold a grudge against this person and try to seek revenge, but boy, it feels good to seek revenge.” You’re tempted.

Do you know why you’re tempted? There would be no temptation unless, underneath, you already believed you can’t trust God. Your heart is saying, “If you obey, you won’t be happy.” The fact that Satan has destroyed our trust in the love of God is beneath everything else. Remember, in the fall we did our series on the Prodigal Son in Luke 15.

There were two different guys, weren’t there? There was the elder brother. He was very religious. He was very moral. He lived a very good life. He followed all of the rules. Why? So that forced God and everybody else to respect and reward him. Then there was the younger brother. He went off, and he had sex with prostitutes, and he lived it up with all of his material possessions. They look very, very different, but look at the bottom of each one.

Why is the moralist, the moralist? Why does he say, “I’m going to earn my salvation”? Because he doesn’t trust in the grace of God. Why does the younger brother go off and say, “I’m going to live any way I want; I’m going to do what I want to do”? Because he doesn’t trust the grace of God. He doesn’t believe if he obeys God he’ll be happy. They don’t believe in the love of God. They don’t believe in the good will of God. It’s at the root of everything. We’ll talk about this more next week.

Philip Roth has a novel called The Human Stain. It’s a metaphor for evil. At one point, one of the characters in the book talks about it. The human stain is the evil of the heart that makes everybody want to put everyone else down. It’s there before. It’s underneath all our wrongdoing. “I want to put other people down, and I have to prove myself.” Do you know where that comes from?

Erick Erickson in his book Childhood and Society says if a child, in the very earliest years, learns not to trust the dominant personality of the parents because they’ve been abused or because they’ve been neglected or abandoned … If a child in the very beginning of their life cannot trust the dominant personality in their life, then they have a fundamental inability to attach or trust ever again, and it’s a taproot for all other kinds of pathologies.

Now listen. I’m not a psychologist. I have no idea whether Erick Erickson is right about childhood pathologies or not. I do know it’s really weird that Genesis says that is exactly what happened in the beginning of the human race. When we were in our infancy, we believed the Serpent that we can’t trust God, that we can’t trust his love.

There are people right now working themselves to death in their jobs because they’re trying to prove to themselves and everybody else that they’re valuable because they don’t trust the love of God, and there are people putting everybody else down and exploiting and lying to everyone. The human stain. Why? They don’t trust God. If you don’t trust God, you don’t trust anybody. We’ve been ruined by the lie.

So first there was a sneer for the heart. Then secondly there was a lie for the mind. Finally, that leads to an act of the will. But it’s a tree sin. Take a look down here at verse 6: “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.”

What was the great sin? What was this great horrible action? What is it that ruined the human race? They ate of the tree. What is this thing? What was wrong with that? What in the world could be wrong with a tree? By the way, a lot of people say, “I don’t get it. We have Ten Commandments. Sometimes to not kill somebody is actually rather hard to obey. Sometimes not to steal is hard to obey. But not to eat of a tree?

You can see why stealing could be bad, and you can see why killing can be bad, you can see why adultery can be bad, but not eating from a tree. What was the big deal about the tree? What was so bad about that? What was the logic behind the prohibition? God says, ‘You can do anything. It’s paradise. But you can’t eat from that tree.’ What was so bad about that?” Here’s what’s so bad about that.

What if God had actually given Adam and Eve an explanation? You can see Adam and Eve walking up to the tree and saying, “What’s so bad about eating from this tree?” and God saying, “Well, if you eat from the tree, there will be infinite suffering and misery and death for the rest of human history.” They would have gone, “Never mind. There’s a whole other … I mean, the rest of the world. There are all of these other trees.”

You know what? The reason God didn’t give them the explanation is crucial to why the decree was so important and what it was all about. If he had given them the explanation and they had said, “Oh, I’m not going to eat from the tree …” Why? Because cost-benefit analysis. “It’s not worth it.” That’s not really obedience, is it? That’s cost-benefit analysis. That’s self-interest. You’re still in the driver’s seat.

No, no. Here’s what’s going on. God was saying to Adam and Eve, “My children, I am God, and your life is a gift to you, and this world is a gift to you. I want you to live as if I’m God and you are living by my power. I want you to live as if this world is a gift and, therefore, not your possession to do with any way you want. I want you to see your lives are a gift from me and, therefore, not yours and something you can do with any way you want.

Therefore, don’t eat from that tree. This is your chance. You can either choose to treat me as God and to treat your life and the world as if it belongs to me and, therefore, you have to use it as I direct, or you can put yourself in the place of God. You can act as if your life is yours and that you generated it. You can act as if this entire world is yours and you can use it any way you want. You can treat me as God, or you can put yourself in the place of God.”

The Serpent knows that, because the Serpent says, “Take of the tree, and you will be like God.” That’s what Adam and Eve do. What’s so important for us to see is you need to look beyond all of the rules. You have to look through the rules. “Don’t lie. Don’t cheat. Don’t commit adultery. Don’t do fornication. Don’t spend all your money on yourself. Don’t be selfish.” All of the things the Bible says. There are the rules.

Behind the rules is, “Don’t put yourself in the place of God. Obey the rules because you’re not God.” God says, “Obey my rules not because of cost-benefit analysis, not because you see why, but because I’m God.” Do you realize that virtually everything that’s wrong with us in this world is you and I putting ourselves in the place of God? This is the problem.

On the one end, it’s not that hard to see that killing, murder, that kind of thing (which is awful, of course, and happens all the time all over the place in the world every day), is certainly putting yourself in the place of God, but have you ever thought about your anxiety? Some of us are eaten up with anxiety. Some of us are going to the doctor because of the way in which it’s corroding our bodies. We’re so anxious. Why? I’ll speak for myself. You’ve heard me say this before.

I get anxious because I have an idea of how my life has to go, how the church has to go, how things have to go in history, and I’m afraid God, who’s in charge of history, isn’t going to get it right. He’s not going to do it the way it needs to be. I know better. What am I doing? Why am I eaten up with anxiety? I’m in the place of God. See this is the sin behind these other sins. This is the thing that’s staining us.

Because of the mistrust, we put ourselves in the place of God. “I can’t trust God, so I have to do it myself.” How do I deal with worry? I deal with worry by saying, “I don’t know; God knows.” I pull myself a little bit out of the place of God, and I start to feel better, and by tomorrow I’ll be back. See, from anxiety on the one hand to murder on the other hand to grudges …

If you won’t forgive somebody, it’s because you’re putting yourself in the place of God. You think you know what they deserve. How do you know? You think you have the right to see them until they get what they deserve. You don’t have the right. You’re putting yourself in the place of God. All of our problems are coming because we’ve done what the Serpent asked us to do.

Do you know what this means? Let’s get down to nitty-gritty. One thing New Yorkers hate doing … They don’t mind obeying the will of God. They see what the Bible says. They don’t mind obeying the will of God as long as it makes sense to them, but if they feel like, “This is not very progressive,” or “This doesn’t meet my needs …” Do you know who William Borden is? You probably don’t.

William Borden grew up in Chicago in the late nineteenth century and went off to Yale in the 1890s, I believe. Yes, he was one of those Bordens. He was extremely wealthy. The Borden’s dairy. He was part of that family, and he was the heir of a great wealth. When he was at Yale, he sensed God’s call to the mission field, and he decided he was going to go to North China and work amongst Mongols and Chinese people.

It was very, very dangerous at the time, and when he announced to his family he was going to go into missionary work, this was appalling to everybody. A man of his stature, of his wealth, of his station in society didn’t do that. He got opposition from his family. He got opposition from his class of people. But he was absolutely resolute. When he graduated from Yale, he gave his entire inheritance (which at that time was $1 million, which was a heck of a lot of money) to mission agencies. He gave it away.

Now in relative poverty, he moved to Cairo to learn Arabic. Just out of college, with his whole life ahead of him, bright … Within a few weeks he had contracted spinal meningitis, and within a few weeks after that he was dead. Scratched on an ordinary piece of paper, which he wrote in his diary as he lay dying, found in his bedroom after he died, were these three phrases: “No reserve, no retreat, no regrets.”

Why wouldn’t he have written in his diary, “God, what are you doing? All my obedience, all my commitment, all my promise, all of my money, all of this preparation. Why would I die now? What possible good …? What are you doing?” Oh no. “No reserve, no retreat, no regrets.” Why? Because he didn’t obey the will of God for reputation. He didn’t obey the will of God for results. He didn’t obey the will of God for impact. He obeyed the will of God just for God’s sake. Not because it made sense, not because he understood it, just because it was God, because God is God and he wasn’t.

Don’t you see that is the ultimate deconstruction of the human will to power that’s ruining the world? If you say, “I’m going to be religious,” or “I’m going to believe in God and I’m going to obey,” but it’s calculated, it’s part of a career move, it’s part of a way of helping you get the inner strength so you can get out and do all of the things … There has to be at some point, “I’m doing this because God says so, because he’s God and I’m not. Period.”

That’s the ultimate deconstruction of the human will for power, which the Serpent got into our systems and poisoned us with. Even though I’m not saying William Borden overcame sin in his human nature, in that one act, where he was faithful to the end, he completely overturned the will of the Serpent. He disbelieved the lie that you can’t trust God. He refused the action of putting himself in the place of God.

By the way, we happen to know he ended up inspiring thousands and thousands of other missionaries over the next generation to go into missions. But he didn’t know that, and you don’t have to know that. See this is the stain. This is the thing that has come into our lives. In the next couple of weeks we’re going to see how this plays out, but we want to end with this. What does God do? Here’s the end.

At the very end, in verses 8–9, you see the rest of the history of the human race in a nutshell. Do you know that? The rest of the entire history of the world in a nutshell. “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’ ”

Please notice two things. The first thing is we are now hiders. If you take that idea and go back over your entire life and think about it, if you rethink your life in terms of that, you’ll see a lot. It’ll be an illuminating exercise. Because we don’t trust God, we now hide from ourselves. We cannot bear to know who we really are. We can’t have a realistic honest appraisal of ourselves. That’s what therapy is all about. If it wasn’t for verse 8, you wouldn’t have a job, therapists.

We hide from ourselves, we hide from each other (spin, dishonesty), but most of all, we hide from God, because in the presence of God we see what we don’t want. We’re hiding. We’re running from the truth, from God, from each other, from our very selves. We’ll look at more of that in the next couple of weeks.

The other thing that is so remarkable is that while we hide, according to these texts, God seeks. It’s our nature to hide; it’s God’s nature to seek. God comes back saying, “Where are you?” Now does he really need information? Does he really not know what happened? Of course not. If he knows what happened, what is he doing?

He’s engaging. In love he’s coming after them. In love he’s counseling them. He’s trying to get them to answer. We learn two things. The first thing we learn is we hide; God seeks. If we ever find God it’s because God found us. There’s that little hymn that goes like this:

‘Tis not that I did choose thee,

For Lord, that could not be;

This heart would still refuse thee,

Hadst thou not chosen me.

My heart owns none before thee,

For thy rich grace I thirst;

This knowing, if I love thee,

Thou must have loved me first.

Anybody who ever finds faith with God feels like that. “You must have come after me; I never would have come after you.” That’s just a fact. The Bible from the very beginning to the end teaches that. More importantly, God going out in love finds its ultimate expression in Jesus Christ. It’s in Jesus Christ all of the things the Serpent gave us are dealt with. Jesus comes back and smashes the Serpent’s head, because he deals with the tree, he deals with the lie, and he even deals with the joke.

First of all, how does Jesus Christ deal with the tree? In the garden of Gethsemane, he’s struggling. There’s a garden. See centuries after Adam and Eve are struggling in the garden over a command about a tree, Jesus is in a garden, and he’s struggling over a command about a tree. It’s called the cross. He knows he has to go to the cross and die for our sins and pay the penalty we owe, and he’s struggling.

Think about this. Adam and Eve were in a bright sunny garden, and God said, “Obey me about the tree, and you will live,” and they didn’t. Jesus Christ was in a dark garden, and God said, “Obey me about the tree, and you’ll be crushed,” and he did, for us. Here’s what he did. He climbed the tree of death and turned that tree of death, the cross, into a tree of life for you and me. There’s the reversal of the tree sin.

What’s the tree sin? Us putting ourselves where only God deserves to be, putting ourselves in the place of God. The tree salvation is God putting himself where we deserve to be, on the cross. See the original tree sin was us putting ourselves where only God deserved to be, taking prerogatives only God deserves to have, putting ourselves in the place of God, but the tree salvation, which is a salvation of Jesus Christ, his death on the cross, is God coming down and putting himself where we deserve to be and taking it for us.

That not only deals with the tree, but that deals with the lie. The lie is, “You can’t trust God,” and all the poison in your life is because you don’t believe God loves you. You don’t believe in the grace of God. What’s going to overcome that? “Well I just believe in a god of love.” That will never overcome it. That’s too weak. It’s weak tea. It won’t work. This is the only thing that will overcome it.

You have to see Jesus Christ climbing a tree of death and turning that tree of death for him into a tree of life for you and me. That will finally begin to take the toxins out of your soul, and you’ll finally start to actually believe God loves you. This is the only thing that will take that out. It’s the only crowbar strong enough to wedge out of your heart the belief that “Basically I’m on my own.”

Lastly, Jesus even deals with the joke. He turns the sneer into something else. Dr. David Martyn Lloyd-Jones used to say the way in which he could tell the difference between a person who was a Pharisee, who believed they were saved by their good works, because they lived a good life, and a Christian who understood the gospel of grace, was to ask them, “Are you a Christian?”

If you ask a pharisaical, moralistic person, “Are you a Christian?” the person gets very … “What do you mean? Of course. Why would you even ask? How dare you ask?” But if you ask anybody who understands the gospel of grace, “Are you a Christian?” they laugh. They say, “Yes, what a joke. Me, a Christian. But it’s true.”

If you’re not a joke to yourself that you’re a Christian, that God is in the middle of your life, that God is using you … If that doesn’t make you laugh, you don’t understand the gospel. It’s a whole different kind of laughter than the laughter of the Serpent. Jesus Christ has dealt with the tree, he has dealt with the lie, and he has even dealt with the sneer and turned it to laughter. Let’s pray.

Our Father, we have a lot to plow through this next month as we try to understand how we got to be the way we are and as we begin to try to understand the various aspects of that and to know how to try to overcome it using the grace and the gospel of Jesus Christ. So we pray you’d be with us, and we pray you will remind us of what a great joke it is that we belong to you because of your grace. Help us to smile. Help us to laugh at that. Help us to rejoice for the rest of our lives that your Son did what he did. We pray this in Jesus’ name, amen.

ABOUT THE PREACHER

In 1989 Dr. Timothy J. Keller, his wife and three young sons moved to New York City to begin Redeemer Presbyterian Church. In 20 years it has grown to meeting for five services at three sites with a weekly attendance of over 5,000. Redeemer is notable not only for winning skeptical New Yorkers to faith, but also for partnering with other churches to do both mercy ministry and church planting.  Redeemer City to City is working to help establish hundreds of new multi-ethnic congregations throughout the city and other global cities in the next decades.

Dr. Tim Keller is the author of several phenomenal Christo-centric books including:

Joy for the World: How Christianity Lost Its Cultural Influence and Can Begin Rebuilding It (co-authored with Greg Forster and Collin Hanson (February or March, 2014).

Romans 1-7 For You (God’s Word For You Series). The Good Book Company (2014).

Encounters with Jesus:Unexpected Answers to Life’s Biggest Questions. New York, Dutton (November 2013).

Walking with God through Pain and Suffering. New York, Dutton (October 2013).

Judges For You (God’s Word For You Series). The Good Book Company (August 6, 2013).

Galatians For You (God’s Word For You Series). The Good Book Company (February 11, 2013).

Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Plan for the World. New York, Penguin Publishing, November, 2012.

Center ChurchDoing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, September, 2012.

The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness. New York: 10 Publishing, April 2012.

Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just. New York: Riverhead Trade, August, 2012.

The Gospel As Center: Renewing Our Faith and Reforming Our Ministry Practices (editor and contributor). Wheaton: Crossway, 2012.

The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God. New York, Dutton, 2011.

King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus (Retitled: Jesus the KIng: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God). New York, Dutton, 2011.

Gospel in Life Study Guide: Grace Changes Everything. Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 2010.

The Reason For God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. New York, Dutton, 2009.

Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Priorities of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope That Matters. New York, Riverhead Trade, 2009.

Heralds of the King: Christ Centered Sermons in the Tradition of Edmund P. Clowney (contributor). Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2009.

The Prodigal God. New York, Dutton, 2008.

Worship By The Book (contributor). Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002.

Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho Road. Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 1997.

 
 
 
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Posted by on January 18, 2014 in Sermons, Tim Keller

 

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Tim Keller Sermon: The First Wedding Day – Genesis 2:18-25

Series The Bible: The Whole Story Part 1 – Creation and Fall

Tim Keller teaching at RPC image

Preached in Manahattan, New York, January 4, 2009

Genesis 2:18–25

18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” 19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.

20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

23 The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” 24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. 25 The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. – This is the Word of the Lord

We’re looking over a period of weeks and months at the central story line of the Bible. We’re trying to trace out the big picture of what the whole Bible is about. We’re starting in Genesis. We come to this very famous passage, the first wedding. Indeed, you can’t understand the story line of the Bible unless you understand something about marriage, because the Bible begins with this marriage, and at the end, in Revelation, it ends with a marriage, the wedding supper of the Lamb.

In some ways, you can understand what the whole Bible is about and what the gospel is about in terms of marriage too. We’re going to see that tonight. Now let’s start this way. There’s so much in this passage. It’s very famous. Almost everybody has heard of it or heard it or parts of it. Let’s be practical tonight. Let’s ask the text a question. I look out there and I know a number of you are not married but you are open to it. A number of you are married.

What do we need to be successful in marriage seeking and in marriage executing? What do we need to be successful in seeking out marriage and/or actually being well-married? How can we seek or be married well? We need three things, I think, according to the text. There are actually more than that, but it’s all we have time for tonight. There are three things the text tells us you really need if you’re going to be married well: attentiveness to idolatry, patience for a very long journey, and supernatural humility.

1. Attentiveness to idolatry

This is a wedding. You know how the father brings the bride down the aisle to the groom? In this case, the father is God. God is doing the honors, and he’s bringing the wife to the husband. When Adam sees Eve, he literally explodes into art. This is the first piece of art in the history of the world, according to the Bible. The reason it’s printed out on the page the way it is is because this is Hebrew poetry using parallelism, assonance, word play, and a chiastic structure. It’s a song. He’s exploding into poetry and song, and he’s saying two things.

First of all, the first Hebrew word in the poem is at last. I know it comes out in the English here as “This is now,” but that word now, which can be translated at last or finally, means Adam is saying, “This is what I’ve been looking for all my life.” Some of you might say, “Well it hasn’t been a very long life, has it?” All right, all right, but the point is he’s saying, “At last,” meaning, “This is the thing I’ve been looking for. This is what I’ve been looking for all my life.”

Well what is it? “Bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” That’s weird. What is that? It’s a poetic way of saying, “As I see you, I now know who I am. I have found myself in you. I’m not just coming to another; I’m coming to someone who is helping me see who I am. At last, finally, by discovering you I have found out who I am.” That’s what he’s saying. That is powerful. Let’s just spend a moment noticing that here we are in paradise, where Adam has a perfect relationship with God, yet he’s responding to romance and marriage like this.

What that means is that John Newton, whom you probably know as a hymn writer (he wrote “Amazing Grace”), but who was actually a great pastor in eighteenth-century Britain, was right when he said (which he regularly did to newlyweds), “You may think your biggest problem, spiritually speaking, is the prospect of a bad marriage.” He says, “Every bit as big a spiritual danger is the prospect of a good marriage.”

In one of his letters he wrote to this young couple who had just been married. I’ll read it to you, but it’s eighteenth-century English. He uses jargon. I’ll have to explain it. To paraphrase, he says, “Permit me to say to both of you with regard to marriage, ‘Beware of idolatry.’ I have smarted for it. I have found my choicest mercies have been the principal occasions of drawing out the evils of my heart and causing me to walk heavily and in darkness, because the old leaven, a tendency toward the covenant of works, still cleaves to me.”

What? Here’s what he’s saying. What is “covenant of works”? It’s an old theological term for a system in which you earn your salvation through perfect performance. In other words, “The reason I go to heaven and get blessed is that I’m living this good life. I’m doing everything perfectly, and therefore I get blessed.” That’s called the covenant of works.

What is he saying? He says his biggest problem, practically, in his life has been idolatry with regard to his wife and his marriage, which helps him slip back into a covenant of works. He says there is (or can be) something so powerful about marriage, so fulfilling about marriage, that unless you deliberately stop it, this is what’s going to happen. You will look to your spouse to give you the things only God can really give you.

You will look to your spouse’s love, your spouse’s respect, your spouse’s affirmation, to give you meaning in life, and to give you a foundation for your own sense of value, all of the things you should only be getting from God. In other words, you will be looking to your spouse to save you. It’ll slip you back into the covenant of works. Oh, you won’t say that. You won’t say that to yourself, and you won’t say that to other people, but you’ll be doing it.

In fact, you’ll be doing it unless you know you’re doing it and stop it, because marriage is this powerful a thing. It’s this attractive a thing. It’s this great a thing. “O Lord,” says John Newton, “save us from the wonderfulness of marriage.” If you do it (and we will do it, to some degree) … In fact, as I’ll show you in a minute, the idolatry happens even if your marriage is bad. No human relationship can bear the weight of those kinds of expectations.

You will crush your marriage with those expectations. Nobody can bear the weight of the expectations and the hopes of ultimate joy. The criticism of your spouse will crush you. The problems of your spouse will crush you. They will devastate you much more than they should, because you’re looking to your spouse and to marriage to save you, to make everything right in your life. Now there are a whole lot of ways this plays out. Let me just give you a couple.

When you’re married, the way it plays out is you just feel that your spouse isn’t perfect. “My marriage isn’t perfect, and I don’t like it.” You cannot live with imperfection. You can’t ever settle for anything other than this incredible picture you have in your mind of absolute blissful love. You have to have it, because you’re looking to it to give you what only God can give you. So when you’re not able to actually handle mediocrity in marriage, and you get all bent out of shape about the imperfections of your spouse and your marriage and refuse to be content with the good things you have, it’s idolatry.

How do unmarried people do it? There are a lot of ways. One of the ways unmarried people make an idol out of marriage and think it’s going to save them and fix them is by being incredibly picky as they evaluate spousal prospects. You say, “Oh, I want a marriage, and it’s going to be like this, and it’s going to be like this. This person has to be so this and this.” You’re looking for virtually perfect spousal prospects, but there aren’t any out there. And you’re not perfect spousal prospects. Hypocrite! You want something you’re not, and that’s idolatry.

Or maybe the most frequent form of idolatry I know is a single person who wants to be married and who so pines after being married that they cannot enjoy their present condition. What are we going to do? This is just plain common sense. There’s a tendency for us to say, “So are you trying to say I shouldn’t love my spouse too much, or hope to love my spouse too much?”

C.S. Lewis says it is probably impossible to love any human being too much. You may love him too much in proportion to your love for God, but it is the smallness of your love for God, not the greatness of your love for the person, that constitutes the inordinacy. Do you know what that means? Marriage will strangle us unless we have a really great, true, existential love relationship with God.

You must not try to demote your love for your spouse or the person you think you’re going to marry. You can’t at all. You have to promote your love for God. Otherwise, it’ll strangle you. Don’t you see that? So married people, you have to do that, or you are not going to be able to settle for the imperfections of your marriage and of your spouse, and single people, you have to remember Christianity is the only major religion that was started by a single person. Do you know that?

Traditional societies believe you’re nobody unless you’re somebody’s spouse, but our faith was started by a single man. Another one of the great founders of Christianity, Saint Paul, has an interesting place in 2 Corinthians where he says, “You want to be married? Great. You’re not married? Great.” That was unique in antiquity, because in ancient times and in traditional cultures, you’re nobody unless you’re married.

But Paul says the relationship every single Christian has with God through Christ is so intimate and so great, and the relationship Christian brothers and sisters have inside the family of God is so great, no one who’s single should be seen as being a second-class person. You are fully human as a single person. After all, the person who saved us was single. I mean, all of this works against idolatry. Use it. But that’s only the first thing we need.

2. Patience for the long journey

A very long journey. Verse 18: “The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’ ” This little word, “a helper suitable …” Let’s look at this, and let me show you why I’m saying this is telling us marriage is a long journey.

The Hebrew word used here that’s translated to the word helper is regularly used in the Bible in Hebrew to refer to military reinforcements. So here’s an overwhelmed little army. You’re outnumbered five to one, and you’re about to be destroyed, and in come reinforcements. That’s help: military reinforcements. In fact, several times God uses that term for himself and says, “You were about to be wiped out, O Israelite army, but I came in and smote everybody with blindness, or I knocked them out, and I saved you. You would have been destroyed without my help.”

Help is a military word, help is a strong word, help is a divine word, and God has the audacity to use it to refer to Eve. What the woman brings into the man’s life is a strength, but here’s a certain kind of strength. Do you see that word suitable? Some translations try to translate it “I will make a helper fit for him.” “I will make a helper meet for him.” That’s the old King James, a helpmeet. “I will make a helper that is suitable for him.”

There are actually two Hebrew words there the word suitable is trying to translate. The Hebrew word literally says, “I will make a helper like opposite him.” Like opposite? Wait a minute. Make up your mind here. Is it like or is it opposite? You can’t be like and opposite. Oh yes, it can, if it’s a complement. See, two pieces of a puzzle fit together not if they’re identical. If they’re identical, they don’t fit. Right? On the other hand, they can’t just be different in general. They have to be rightly different. They have to be like opposite. They have to be perfectly complementary.

Now here’s what we’re being told. God is sending into Adam’s life (and therefore, God is sending into Eve’s life by definition) somebody with enormous power but power that is very different. Like opposite. This help does what? The poem tells you what’s happening. Into your life in marriage comes a person of a different gender, a person with mysteriously profound differences that are really almost impossible to define.

As soon as you start to try to define the difference between male and female, it never quite fits. Yet there it is, and it’s irreducible, and it’s inexorable. In marriage, into your life comes a person with a very radically different view of you, of the world, a person of different gender, of equal power, equal resources, but incredibly different, and you’re thrown into an incredibly tight, close relationship.

Do you know how close? One flesh. “A man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife. The two shall become one flesh.” That word flesh is not what you think. It’s not talking about the bodies. When God says, “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,” he’s not saying, “I will pour out my Spirit on all bodies.” He’s saying, “I will pour out my Spirit on all persons.”

What it is saying is marriage puts you into the same space. You literally occupy the same space. You hold things in common. You’re raising your family together. Two people, very different, like you, not you, opposite you, put together in the same tight location. What’s going to happen? Constantly butting heads. It has to be. This is a military word. Let me put it like this. I’ve used this illustration before, but I hope this’ll be even more illuminating under these circumstances.

My wife and I have had 34 years of marriage. Neither my wife nor I are particularly gender-stereotyped. I’m not a particularly masculine-type guy. My wife is not a particularly feminine kind of girl. Yet you get into marriage, and you find you see the world differently, and you see each other differently. She sees things in me I would never see, but she sees because she’s a different gender and she’s in close, and I see things in her, and I see things in the world.

After 34 years of conflict, of arguing, of head-butting (it’s military, you know), now every single day when I get out into the world and things happen to me, I have a split second to react. What am I going to say? What am I going to do? What am I going to think? For years, even halfway through my marriage, I only thought like a man, but now, after years and years of head-butting, here’s what happens.

Something happens, and for a split second, I not only know what I would do, what I would think, how I would respond, but I know how Kathy would think, and I know what Kathy would do. For a split second, because it’s so instilled in me, I actually have a choice. Which of these approaches would probably work better? You see, my wisdom portfolio has been permanently diversified. I’m a different person, and yet I’m me. I haven’t become more feminine. In fact, probably in many ways I’ve become more masculine as time has gone on.

What’s going on? She came into my life, and now I know who I am. I’ve become who I’m supposed to be only through the head-butting, only through having a person who’s like me, not me, opposite to me, in close. Now here’s what worries me a great deal about marriage in our culture. We are consumers. We are trained to be consumers. Consumers do a cost-benefit analysis, and you do it in your head automatically. You don’t even realize how much you’ve been trained to do it.

You want a product that satisfies. You don’t want a product that fights back. You want a product that does exactly what you want, customized. You don’t want someone who’s like you, not you, opposite you. I’m afraid we get into our marriages and we say, “This isn’t right. This is supposed to be blissful. This is supposed to be beautiful. It’s supposed to be wonderful. Why are we always having these confrontations?” Because marriage is meant to, or you’ll never become the person God wants you to be. You’ll never finally get there.

It’s not just Eve who’s brought into Adam’s life with her gender resources to help him be who he’s supposed to be. Go to Ephesians 5. Do you realize it’s the same thing as Genesis 2, reversed? “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church. Give yourself for her. Help her become who she ought to be. Make her a radiant person. Find ways of helping her overcome her flaws.” It’s the same thing. He’s using his gender-differentiated resources to bring her to who she should be, but it’s a long journey. Will you have the patience to stick with it?

This is the reason one of my favorite quotes that I always read every time I can when I’m preaching on marriage … Stanley Hauerwas says there’s an assumption out there in the culture that there’s someone just right for us to marry, and if we look closely enough we will find that right person. That’s the consumer mindset.

“This overlooks a crucial fact about marriage. It fails to appreciate the fact that when you get married, you always marry the wrong person. We never know who we marry; we just think we do. Even if we first marry the right person, just give it a while, and he or she will change. For marriage, being the enormous thing it is, means we are not the same person after we’ve entered it.”

Do you get that? You know, you’re looking. “Oh, I want to marry the right person.” So you’re trying to evaluate who that person is, but how do you know who that person is going to be when you get in there? Once you get in there, marriage is so incredibly powerful it’s going to change the person. You always marry the wrong person, as it were. You always marry somebody who’s going to be butting heads with you.

Where will you get the patience to stick with it and to understand what the confrontation is there for? Marriage is not designed to bring you so much into confrontation with your spouse; it’s actually designed to bring you into confrontation with yourself, to show you your sins, to show you what’s wrong with you, to show you ways to change that otherwise you never would find.

Remember how Ulysses during his odyssey at one point had to navigate his boat right through the center between the Scylla and the Charybdis? The Scylla is idolatry, because that’s romantic naïveté, this incredibly beautiful high view of marriage that is so unrealistic, and the Charybdis is the disillusionment of actually finding out what marriage is like and being afraid of it and being cynical about it because it’s always so much work. How are we going to get what we need to have a vaccine against the idolatry but, at the same time, a patience so that marriage will pay off in the end?

3. A kind of humility only the gospel can give you

It’s indicated here at the beginning where it says, “The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone.’ ” Most commentators will tell you that is a very surprising statement. It’s first of all surprising because it’s a departure. Up to now, everything God has been saying is, “It is good.” It keeps saying, “He saw this, and it was good. He made this, and it was good.” This is the first thing to which he says, “Not good.” Everything else was a benediction, a good word. This is the first malediction, a bad word. This is bad. So that’s surprising.

What’s really surprising about it is it’s inexplicable. How could you be unhappy in paradise? Why would Adam be lonely? Why would he be unhappy in paradise? There’s only one possible answer, really. God deliberately made him to need someone besides God. Oh, don’t get me wrong. We all need God. He made us to need him, and that’s the foundation of a relationship, but think about this. Several theologians have put it like this.

This is the most humble act you could imagine. This is the most un-self-centered act you could imagine. God made human beings to need not just him, but other human beings, other relationships, other selves, other hearts. How humble of God, how un-self-centered of God, how other-oriented of God, how sacrificial, in a way, of God. It’s nothing compared to what we see later. Here’s what we see later. When in the Bible God says repeatedly in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Hosea, “I am the bridegroom, and you, my people, are the bride,” do you know what that’s teaching? It’s teaching two things.

First of all, it’s teaching you need to have God in your life, not just as someone you believe in, not just as someone you try to obey; you need God in your life as your spouse. He’s the ultimate helpmeet you need. He’s like you but not you. He’s like you because you’re in his image. That means you’re personal and relational. He’s personal and relational. But he’s not like you because he’s holy. There is no other helpmeet you need in your life like God.

You’ll never become the person you’re supposed to be unless he comes into your life, not just as a kind of abstract principle of love or somebody you kind of obey in a general way. He has to be in your life as your lover. He has to be in your life intimately. There has to be interaction. There has to be prayer. There has to be listening to his Word. All that has to be there. Why? You need him. That’s the main help you need. He has to be in your life. He’s like you and not you. You’ll never become the person you ought to be unless that’s the case. So we need to have that relationship. He is the ultimate spousal relationship we need.

The second thing this teaches when he says, “I am the bridegroom and you are the bride,” is he has given us his heart. A groom does not ask a woman to marry him unless he has lost his heart, as it were. His heart is bound up with her. This is God’s way of saying, “I have given you my heart, and how you act and how you live and how you treat me now hurts me.”

Think about this. The Bible says when you say, “Oh, I believe in God,” but you really live for your career, or you really live for this or you live for that, that’s called spiritual adultery. You’ve given the deepest passions and love of your heart to someone besides God. The Bible says God has a sense of betrayal and grief far greater (because he’s perfect and holy and his love is perfect) than you would feel if your human spouse was unfaithful to you.

By the way, there are people in this room that has happened to, and you know how bad it is. Therefore, you know how incredible it is for God to say, “What you have felt is nothing like the grief I feel when I look at every one of you every day.” This means we are the spouses from hell, and God is in the longest-lived, worst marriage in the history of the world. Now you can understand the whole history of the Bible.

Why did God come to earth in the form of Jesus Christ? John 1, says he came to his own, but his own received him not. He was trying to get us back. He was trying to get his wayward bride back. But we didn’t just spurn him; we nailed him to the cross. Some of you may be in bad marriages and you think, “Oh, my spouse is crucifying me,” but in God’s case it really happened.

When he was on the cross looking down, realizing what it would take for him to stay and love us to the end, guess what? He stayed. Here’s the ultimate spousal love. Here’s the man, here’s the spouse, who has no illusions. He doesn’t expect us to be perfect. He knows we’re not perfect. He’s loving us not because we’re lovely and not because we’re going to give him so much affirmation. He loves us to make us lovely. He loves us for our sakes, not for his sake, so he’s the perfect spouse, and he’s the perfect helpmeet.

He has come into our lives, and he has gone to the cross, and he has died on the cross for our sins. When he did that … Martin Luther says, “Now you understand the gospel.” Martin Luther has a great little essay he wrote called “The Freedom of a Christian.” In it he tries to give the essence of what it means that you’re saved by faith, not by works. He says there’s no better way than understanding what Jesus Christ did when he died on the cross for our sins and says, “Now believe in me.”

Listen to this paraphrase from “The Freedom of a Christian.” This is incredible. “The third incomparable grace of faith is this: it unites us to Christ as a wife and a husband are made one flesh. When two people are married, it follows that all they have becomes theirs in common, good things as well as evil things, so that whatsoever Christ possesses, that now belongs to you, and whatever belongs to you, that Christ claims as his.

Oh, if we compare these possessions we shall see how infinite is our gain. For Christ is full of grace, life, and salvation, and we are full of sin, death, and condemnation. But let faith step in, and then sin, death, and hell belong to Christ, and grace, life, and salvation come to us. For if he is a husband, he must needs take to himself that which is his wife’s and, at the same time, impart to his wife that which is his.

Therefore, we the believing, by the wedding ring of faith, become free from all sin, fearless of death, safe from hell, and endowed with this eternal righteousness, life, and salvation of our husband Jesus Christ. Oh, who can value highly enough these royal nuptials? Who can comprehend the riches of the glory of his grace? Do you not see the importance of faith, which is a wedding ring, and that it alone can fulfill the law and justify without works?”

If you know our spouse, Jesus Christ, died for us, that he had the patience to stick with us to the end, that he didn’t come and love us because we were lovely but to make us lovely, that’s everything you need for two reasons. First of all, there’s the patience you need for the journey. The main thing you need to really stick with a marriage is you need to over and over and over again look at your spouse and say, “You wronged me, but I wronged my great spouse, Jesus Christ, and he kept covering me and forgiving me, so I’m loved enough by him that I can offer the same thing to you.” That’s the only way you’ll have the patience for the journey.

Here’s the other thing. It’s the vaccine against idolatry. If you look at your spouse and say, “He or she isn’t very incredible, is he or she?” and if you look at your own life as an unmarried person and say, “Why can’t I be married?” now look at this spouse. This spouse, Jesus Christ, is the only spouse who’s really going to save you. He’s the only one who can really fulfill you. The great wedding day on which we fall into his arms is the only wedding day that will really make everything right in our lives, and it awaits you if you put on the wedding ring of faith.

So don’t get too upset about the flaws in your current life. Single people, here’s one last thing to say. You say, “How am I ever going to become myself and figure out who I am if I don’t get married?” Think about this. When you get married, it pulls you away from all of the brothers and sisters out there in the church. I mean, there are a lot of men and women out there who can be your friends, people of a different gender as well.

When you get married, it gets you into a deep relationship with one person of the other gender, and it pulls you away from all kinds of other relationships with men and women. Therefore, there are a lot of ways in which God can get you help through the body of Christ that you can’t get once you’re married. It’s up to God to know what you need to grow in grace and what you need to grow into the person he wants you to be. Only he knows whether you should be married. Only he knows whether you should not be married. So let him rule your life.

The Bible begins with a wedding, and this wedding’s original purpose was to fill the world with children of God, and it failed. Why? Because the husband in that marriage failed to step in and help his wife when she needed him. But at the end of time there will be another wedding, the marriage supper of the Lamb, and its purpose is to fill the world with children of God, and it will succeed where the first marriage failed. Do you know why? Because the first husband failed, but the second husband will not. The true Adam, Jesus Christ, will never let his wife down. He hasn’t. He won’t. Let us love him for that. Let’s pray.

Our Father, we thank you for giving us insights into the gospel through the metaphor of marriage. We thank you that now, as we partake of the bread and the cup, we actually have a foretaste of that wedding feast. We just need to come closer to you and have a closer walk of love with our true spouse, Jesus Christ, so we can be, in all of our relationships, who we need to be. We ask that you would meet with us now. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

ABOUT THE PREACHER

In 1989 Dr. Timothy J. Keller, his wife and three young sons moved to New York City to begin Redeemer Presbyterian Church. In 20 years it has grown to meeting for five services at three sites with a weekly attendance of over 5,000. Redeemer is notable not only for winning skeptical New Yorkers to faith, but also for partnering with other churches to do both mercy ministry and church planting.  Redeemer City to City is working to help establish hundreds of new multi-ethnic congregations throughout the city and other global cities in the next decades.

Dr. Tim Keller is the author of several phenomenal Christo-centric books including:

Joy for the World: How Christianity Lost Its Cultural Influence and Can Begin Rebuilding It (co-authored with Greg Forster and Collin Hanson (February or March, 2014).

Romans 1-7 For You (God’s Word For You Series). The Good Book Company (2014).

Encounters with Jesus:Unexpected Answers to Life’s Biggest Questions. New York, Dutton (November 2013).

Walking with God through Pain and Suffering. New York, Dutton (October 2013).

Judges For You (God’s Word For You Series). The Good Book Company (August 6, 2013).

Galatians For You (God’s Word For You Series). The Good Book Company (February 11, 2013).

Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Plan for the World. New York, Penguin Publishing, November, 2012.

Center ChurchDoing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, September, 2012.

The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness. New York: 10 Publishing, April 2012.

Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just. New York: Riverhead Trade, August, 2012.

The Gospel As Center: Renewing Our Faith and Reforming Our Ministry Practices (editor and contributor). Wheaton: Crossway, 2012.

The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God. New York, Dutton, 2011.

King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus (Retitled: Jesus the KIng: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God). New York, Dutton, 2011.

Gospel in Life Study Guide: Grace Changes Everything. Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 2010.

The Reason For God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. New York, Dutton, 2009.

Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Priorities of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope That Matters. New York, Riverhead Trade, 2009.

Heralds of the King: Christ Centered Sermons in the Tradition of Edmund P. Clowney (contributor). Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2009.

The Prodigal God. New York, Dutton, 2008.

Worship By The Book (contributor). Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002.

Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho Road. Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 1997.

 
 
 
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Posted by on January 12, 2014 in Sermons, Tim Keller

 

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SUNDAY OT SERMON: James Boice “The First Five Days of Creation” – Genesis 1:3-23

SERIES: GENESIS – PART 10

Genesis 1-11 vol 1 Boice

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

And God said, “Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water.” So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. God called the expanse “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.

And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.

Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.

And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.

And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.” So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day. – Genesis 1:3-23

Creation is one form of God’s self-revelation and therefore a means by which we may come to know him. But, as Calvin points out in the introduction to his commentary on Genesis, our eyes are not “sufficiently clear-sighted to discern what the fabric of heaven and earth represents,” and therefore we need the Scriptures to view creation rightly. “If the mute instruction of the heaven and the earth were sufficient, the teaching of Moses would have been superfluous” John Calvin, Commentaries on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis, trans. John King. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,, 1948, 62).

Having looked at the creation account through the various modern systems of interpretation, we therefore now turn to the account for the emphasis God himself puts on his creative activity.

There are three main teachings. First, God himself—the true, sovereign, wise, and personal God—stands behind creation. Second, the work of this true, sovereign, wise, and personal God was an orderly work. Third, the creation was and is good, because it is the work of the God who is not only true, sovereign, wise, and personal but also morally perfect. Each of these points has implications for the way we are to relate both to God and his creation.

In the Beginning

The most obvious point is that God stands at the beginning of all things and is the One through whom all came into existence. We have noticed this in studying the first sentence of the chapter. When the Bible begins by stating “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” it is evident that we are directed first and primarily to the God who stands behind everything.

We also have this emphasis in the account of the first five days. Grammatically speaking, there is only one subject in all these verses: God himself. Everything else is object. Objects are acted upon. Light, air, water, dry land, vegetation, sun, moon, stars, fish, birds, land animals—all are objects in a creative process where God alone is subject. In these verses we are told that God “saw” (vv. 4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25), “separated” (vv. 4, 7), “called” (vv. 5, 8, 10), “made” (vv. 7, 16, 25), “set” (v. 17), “created” (vv. 21, 27), and explained to the man and woman what he had done (vv. 28–30). Moreover, before that, God spoke (vv. 3, 6, 9, 14, 20), as a result of which everything else unfolded.

We should note a number of things. First, in the Hebrew of this chapter the name for God is Elohim. This is a plural word. It is used as if it were singular—that is, with singular verbs and (usually) with singular pronouns referring back to it—to indicate that there is but one God only. But the fact that it is plural also suggests that there are plural dimensions to God’s being. We must acknowledge that this in itself does not teach the doctrine of the Trinity. There is such a thing as a plural of greatness in the Hebrew language. Nevertheless, on the basis of the later revelation, particularly in the New Testament, we are right in seeing a preparation for that fuller revelation here. In John 1 we have a reference to the start of Genesis that goes: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning” (vv. 1–2). The Word is Jesus, as verse 14 shows. So John is saying that Jesus was with the Father and was acting with him in the original work of creation. In verse 3 John says specifically, “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:3).

In Genesis 1:26 we find God saying, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness”—one of the places where a singular pronoun does not occur. In Genesis 3:22 we find, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.”

This is all very significant, because, when we recognize that the members of the Trinity are here at the beginning of creation, having existed before anything else, then the elements that we associate with the Trinity—love, personality, and communication—are seen to be eternal and to have eternal value. This is the biblical answer to man’s fear of being lost in an impersonal and loveless universe.

The second thing we note about these first biblical statements concerning God is that God brought the universe into existence by speaking (“And God said”). This shows the importance of verbal or propositional revelation. There has been a tendency in some contemporary theological circles to deny the importance of words on the basis that what is really important are acts, particularly the acts of God in history. This has implications for one’s assessment of the Bible, for in such a scheme the very words of the Bible lose importance and the Bible becomes only a more or less accurate pointer to what God has done historically. It has implications for the Christian life, because the emphasis falls on what God is doing rather than on what God has commanded. It even has implications for an understanding of history, for God is seen to be present wherever things are happening regardless of whether this accords with his written record of his nature and ways.

The creation account is a warning against this unbiblical and ultimately destructive approach. It is true that there can be a type of preoccupation with words that keeps one from actually coming to grips with the God who spoke them. But this is a far less common error in our day than cutting one’s self free from the written revelation. Which came first, the word or the deed? Many today say, “Deed.” But this is a distortion, as Genesis shows. God’s acts are of great importance. The creation account is full of them. But it is wrong to say that the deed comes first. Rather, the word comes first, followed by the deed, followed by a further revelation in words to interpret the deed spiritually. This means that a hearty emphasis on the Word of God is both biblical and mandatory, if one is to appreciate the acts of God prophesied, recorded, and interpreted in the Scriptures.

The third thing about this emphasis on God’s being behind creation is that when we are pleased with creation, as we should be, our praise should be directed to God, who made all things, and not to creation itself. This is the first great dividing point between the religion of the Bible and most pagan religions. Pagans worship the object, sometimes the “spirit” or “god” perceived to be in or identical with the object. But the Christian looks beyond the object to the God who made it and praises him. This gives him an understanding of the object that the pagan, for all his devotion to things, does not have. The Christian understands why the object is there, why it has the form it has, and (to some extent) what his responsibility toward it is. He is delivered from fear or excessive veneration of the object, on the one hand, and an unmerited scorn or disregard of it, on the other.

Can we not say also that God is to be praised as Creator even before he is praised as Redeemer? We see this in an interesting sequence of those hymns of praise recorded in the fourth and fifth chapters of Revelation. The fifth chapter contains three hymns of praise to Christ for his work of redemption. But there is also the great hymn of chapter 4:

You are worthy, our Lord and God,

to receive glory and honor and power,

for you created all things,

and by your will they were created

and have their being.

verse 11

In this hymn God is praised as Creator. It is significant that even before that, in verse 8, he is praised simply for being:

Holy, holy, holy

is the Lord God Almighty,

who was, and is, and is to come.

As Francis Schaeffer says, “Our praise to God is not first of all in the area of soteriology. If we are being fully scriptural, we do not praise him first because he saved us, but because he is there and has always been there. And we praise him because he willed all other things, including man, into existence” Schaeffer, Genesis in Space and Time, 27).

When Schaeffer says that “God willed all things, including man, into existence,” he introduces the fourth thing that should be especially noted about God’s being behind all creation: We are part of that creation, have been made by God, and therefore owe him our total and unfeigned obedience and devotion. As Calvin says, “After the world had been created, man was placed in it as in a theatre, that he, beholding above him and beneath the wonderful works of God, might reverently adore their Author.” Moreover, “all things were ordained for the use of man, that he, being under deeper obligation, might devote and dedicate himself entirely to obedience towards God” (Calvin, Genesis, 64-65) We have not done this, of course. We have rebelled against God and are therefore in need of a redeemer. But having been redeemed and having been given a new nature according to which we have now become “new creatures” in Christ, we are enabled to worship and serve God properly.

An Orderly Unfolding

God’s standing behind all things is not the only point of the creation account. These verses also teach that creation was according to an orderly unfolding of the mind and purposes of God. That is, it was a step-by-step progression marked by a sequence of six significant days.

We have already seen that the length of time covered by these days may be an open question. Creationists insist that the days cover a literal twenty-four hours, but this is not necessarily the case. Sometimes the word “day” is used with broader meaning, even by Moses. It can mean a period of indefinite duration. The evidence of geology suggests to most people that the periods corresponding to the days of Genesis were long. However, questions like these, while interesting and necessary, obscure the equally valid and even more valuable point that creation, however long it took, was a deliberate and orderly unfolding of God’s purposes. God is a God of order, not chaos. He is a God of purpose, not chance. It follows that we should also be creatures of order and purpose. Instead of attempting to tear down, as Satan does, we should attempt to build up according to the pattern God gives in Scripture.

A Moral Pronouncement

There is a third point to the Genesis account of creation: God’s moral pronouncement on what he has done. It appears in the repeated phrase “and God saw that it was good” (vv. 10, 12, 18, 21, 25; cf. vv. 3, 31). This pronouncement is not made because we can point to an object and say pragmatically, “That thing is useful to me and is therefore good to me.” God’s pronouncement on the goodness of creation came even before we were made. The pronouncement is made because the object is good in itself. As Schaeffer says, this means that a tree is not good only because we can cut it down and make a house of it or because we can burn it in order to get heat. It is good because God made it and has pronounced it good. It is good because, like everything else in creation, it conforms to God’s nature.

Schaeffer writes of this divine benediction: “This is not a relative judgment, but a judgment of the holy God who has a character and whose character is the law of the universe. His conclusion: Every step and every sphere of creation, and the whole thing put together—man himself and his total environment, the heavens and the earth—conforms to myself” (Schaeffer, Genesis in Space and Time, 55).

It is not only in its pristine state, that is, before the fall of man, that the earth and its contents are pronounced good. The initial blessing of God recorded in Genesis 1 is repeated later even after the fall. For example, it is repeated in God’s covenant with the human race given at the time of Noah. In that unilateral covenant God says, “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. … I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth” (Gen. 9:9–10, 13). Here God’s concern is expressed, not just for Noah and those of his family who were delivered with him, but for the birds and the cattle and even the earth itself. Similarly, in Romans 8 there is an expression of the value of creation in that God included it in his promise of that future deliverance for which it as well as the race of men and women wait: “The creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God” (v. 21).

The value of creation, declared good by God, brings us to a natural conclusion: If God finds the universe good in its parts and as a whole, then we must find it good also. This does not mean that we will refuse to see that nature has been marred by sin. Indeed, the verses from Genesis 9 and Romans 8 are inexplicable apart from the realization that nature has suffered in some way as a result of man’s fall. It is marred by thorns, weeds, disease. But even in its marred state it has value, just as fallen man also has value.

First, we should be thankful for the world God has made and praise him for it. In some expressions of Christian thought only the soul has value. But this is not right, nor is it truly Christian. Actually, the elevation of the value of the soul and the debasement of the body and other material things is a Greek and therefore pagan idea based on a false understanding of creation. If God had made the soul (or spirit) alone and if the material world had come from some lesser or even evil source, this would be right. But the Christian view is that God has made all that is and that it therefore has value and should be valued by us because of this origin.

Second, we should delight in creation. This is closely related to being thankful but is a step beyond it. It is a step that many Christians have never taken. Frequently Christians look on nature only as one of the classic proofs of God’s existence. But instead of this, the Christian should really enjoy what he sees. He should appreciate its beauty. He should exult in creation even more than the non-Christian, because in the Christian’s case there is a corresponding knowledge of the God who stands behind it.

Third, we should demonstrate a responsibility toward nature, meaning that we should not destroy it simply for the sake of destroying it but rather should seek to elevate it to its fullest potential. There is a parallel here between the responsibility of men and women toward the creation and the responsibility of a husband toward his wife in marriage. In each case the responsibility is based on a God-given dominion (though the two are not identical). Of marriage it is said, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Eph. 5:25–27). In the same way, men and women together should seek to sanctify and cleanse the earth in order that it might be more as God created it, in anticipation of its ultimate redemption. This does not mean that the universe cannot be used by man in a proper way. A tree can still be cut down to make wood for a home. But it will not be cut down simply for the pleasure of cutting it down or because it is the easiest way to increase the value of the ground. In such areas there must be a careful thinking through of the value and purpose of the object, and there must be a Christian rather than a purely utilitarian approach to it.

Finally, after he has contemplated nature and has come to value it, the Christian should turn once again to the God who made it and sustains it moment by moment and should learn to trust him. God cares for nature, in spite of its abuse through man’s sin. But if he cares for nature, then he also obviously cares for us and may be trusted to do so. This argument occurs in the midst of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount in which he draws our attention to God’s care of the birds (animal life) and lilies (plant life) and then asks, “Are you not much more valuable than they? … If … God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matt. 6:26, 30) (Parts of this sermon are drawn from Boice, The Soveriegn God, 205-15).

About the Preacher

Boice JM in pulpit

James Montgomery Boice, Th.D., (July 7, 1938 – June 15, 2000) was a Reformed theologian, Bible teacher, and pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia from 1968 until his death. He is heard on The Bible Study Hour radio broadcast and was a well-known author and speaker in evangelical and Reformed circles. He also served as Chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy for over ten years and was a founding member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. James Boice was one of my favorite Bible teachers. Thankfully – many of his books and expositions of Scripture are still in print and more are becoming available. The sermon above was adapted from Chapter 10 in Genesis 1-11: An Expositional Commentaryvol. 1: Creation and Fall. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006.

Under Dr. Boice’s leadership, Tenth Presbyterian Church became a model for ministry in America’s northeastern inner cities. When he assumed the pastorate of Tenth Church there were 350 people in regular attendance. At his death the church had grown to a regular Sunday attendance in three services of more than 1,200 persons, a total membership of 1,150 persons. Under his leadership, the church established a pre-school for children ages 3-5 (now defunct), a high school known as City Center Academy, a full range of adult fellowship groups and classes, and specialized outreach ministries to international students, women with crisis pregnancies, homosexual and HIV-positive clients, and the homeless. Many of these ministries are now free-standing from the church.

Dr. Boice gave leadership to groups beyond his own organization. For ten years he served as Chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, from its founding in 1977 until the completion of its work in 1988. ICBI produced three classic, creedal documents: “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics” and “The Chicago Statement on the Application of the Bible to Contemporary Issues.” The organization published many books, held regional “Authority of Scripture” seminars across the country, and sponsored the large lay “Congress on the Bible I,” which met in Washington, D.C., in September 1987. He also served on the Board of Bible Study Fellowship.

He founded the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals (Alliance) in 1994, initially a group of pastors and theologians who were focused on bringing the 20th and now 21st century church to a new reformation. In 1996 this group met and wrote the Cambridge Declaration. Following the Cambridge meetings, the Alliance assumed leadership of the programs and publications formerly under Evangelical Ministries, Inc. (Dr. Boice) and Christians United for Reformation (Horton) in late 1996.

Dr. Boice was a prodigious world traveler. He journeyed to more than thirty countries in most of the world’s continents, and he taught the Bible in such countries as England, France, Canada, Japan, Australia, Guatemala, Korea and Saudi Arabia. He lived in Switzerland for three years while pursuing his doctoral studies.

Dr. Boice held degrees from Harvard University (A.B.), Princeton Theological Seminary (B.D.), the University of Basel, Switzerland (D. Theol.) and the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Episcopal Church (D.D., honorary).

A prolific author, Dr. Boice had contributed nearly forty books on a wide variety of Bible related themes. Most are in the form of expositional commentaries, growing out of his preaching: Psalms (1 volume), Romans (4 volumes), Genesis (3 volumes), Daniel, The Minor Prophets (2 volumes), The Sermon on the Mount, John (5 volumes, reissued in one), Ephesians, Phillippians and The Epistles of John. Many more popular volumes: Hearing God When You Hurt, Mind Renewal in a Mindless Christian Life, Standing on the Rock, The Parables of Jesus, The Christ of Christmas, The Christ of the Open Tomb and Christ’s Call to Discipleship. He also authored Foundations of the Christian Faith a 740-page book of theology for laypersons. Many of these books have been translated into other languages, such as: French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Chinese and Korean.

He was married to Linda Ann Boice (born McNamara), who continues to teach at the high school they co-founded.

Source: Taken directly from the Aliance of Confessing Evangelicals’ Website

James Montgomery Boice’s Books:

1970 Witness and Revelation in the Gospel of John (Zondervan)
1971 Philippians: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1972 The Sermon on the Mount (Zondervan)
1973 How to Live the Christian Life (Moody; originally, How to Live It Up,
Zondervan)
1974 Ordinary Men Called by God (Victor; originally, How God Can Use
Nobodies)
1974 The Last and Future World (Zondervan)
1975-79 The Gospel of John: An Expositional Commentary (5 volumes,
Zondervan; issued in one volume, 1985; 5 volumes, Baker 1999)
1976 “Galatians” in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Zondervan)
1977 Can You Run Away from God? (Victor)
1977 Does Inerrancy Matter? (Tyndale)
1977 Our Sovereign God, editor (Baker)
1978 The Foundation of Biblical Authority, editor (Zondervan)
1979 The Epistles of John: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1979 Making God’s Word Plain, editor (Tenth Presbyterian Church)
1980 Our Savior God: Studies on Man, Christ and the Atonement, editor (Baker)
1982-87 Genesis: An Expositional Commentary (3 volumes, Zondervan)
1983 The Parables of Jesus (Moody)
1983 The Christ of Christmas (Moody)
1983-86 The Minor Prophets: An Expositional Commentary (2 volumes,
Zondervan)
1984 Standing on the Rock (Tyndale). Reissued 1994 (Baker)
1985 The Christ of the Open Tomb (Moody)
1986 Foundations of the Christian Faith (4 volumes in one, InterVarsity
Press; original volumes issued, 1978-81)
1986 Christ’s Call to Discipleship (Moody)
1988 Transforming Our World: A Call to Action, editor (Multnomah)
1988, 98 Ephesians: An Expositional Commentary (Baker)
1989 Daniel: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1989 Joshua: We Will Serve the Lord (Revell)
1990 Nehemiah: Learning to Lead (Revell)
1992-94 Romans (4 volumes, Baker)
1992 The King Has Come (Christian Focus Publications)
1993 Amazing Grace (Tyndale)
1993 Mind Renewal in a Mindless Age (Baker)
1994-98 Psalms (3 volumes, Baker)
1994 Sure I Believe, So What! (Christian Focus Publications)
1995 Hearing God When You Hurt (Baker)
1996 Two Cities, Two Loves (InterVarsity)
1996 Here We Stand: A Call from Confessing Evangelicals, editor with
Benjamin E. Sasse (Baker)
1997 Living By the Book (Baker)
1997 Acts: An Expositional Commentary (Baker)
1999 The Heart of the Cross, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)
1999 What Makes a Church Evangelical?
2000 Hymns for a Modern Reformation, with Paul S. Jones
2001 Matthew: An Expositional Commentary (2 volumes, Baker)
2001 Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace? (Crossway)
2002 The Doctrines of Grace, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)
2002 Jesus on Trial, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)

Chapters

1985 “The Future of Reformed Theology” in David F. Wells, editor,
Reformed Theology in America: A History of Its Modern Development
(Eerdmans)
1986 “The Preacher and Scholarship” in Samuel T. Logan, editor, The
Preacher and Preaching: Reviving the Art in the Twentieth Century
(Presbyterian and Reformed)
1992 “A Better Way: The Power of Word and Spirit” in Michael Scott
Horton, editor, Power Religion: The Selling Out of the Evangelical Church?
(Moody)
1994 “The Sovereignty of God” in John D. Carson and David W. Hall,
editors, To Glorify and Enjoy God: A Commemoration of the 350th
Anniversary of the Westminster Assembly (Banner of Truth Trust)

SOURCE: from the Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, website

 
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Posted by on January 12, 2014 in James Montgomery Boice, Sermons

 

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