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Author:Rev. Sjirk Bajema
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Congregation:Reformed Church of Mangere
 South Auckland, New Zealand
 
Title:It's All About God!
Text:BC 1 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Preached:2007-09-23
Added:2009-04-30
Updated:2009-05-07
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Sjirk Bajema, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


BELGIC CONFESSION OF FAITH I

(Reading: Romans 10:1-21)

 

It’s All About God!

 

 

Congregation in our Lord Jesus Christ...

 

     There was once a young preacher who asked a well-known evangelical minister for some advice about preaching.

          He especially wanted to know what he should be preaching about.

 

     That famous man was silent for a moment.

          Then he replied, “Preach about God; and preach about twenty minutes.”

 

     While the length of the sermon might be debated the advice given concerning the subject matter isn’t.

          God must be the one grand theme of all our preaching and teaching.

              To know Him is life eternal.

 

     This is the desire of our Lord Jesus.

          In His High Priestly prayer He says, in John 17 verse 3, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

 

     This is also the title for our considering the first Article of the Belgic Confession of Faith.

          Because it is all about God!

              There is to be no doubt where the Church of Jesus Christ stands in this world.

                  

     For when the Article begins “We all…” it is the declaration of the faithful church.

          This is what P.Y. De Jong entitled his commentary on the Belgic Confession of Faith – “The Church’s Witness to the World.”

 

     It’s this confession that we share with the true Church of all ages and of all places.

          We stand there with Guido de Bres as he wrote these words.

              And so we note first of all this afternoon, THE CAUSE FOR THIS CONFESSION.

 

     Congregation, there is always a reason behind what we do.

          It’s by examining that motivation that we can see whether or not it has been done for the right reason.

              This is what the opening statement, “We all believe with the heart and confess with the mouth,” is about.

 

     We see the right motivation through the historical background to the Confession.

          For looking at the background of this Confession we learn that it was written in 1561.

              So it’s the oldest of the four Reformational Confessions that our denomination has.

 

     The author of the confession was a man called Guido de Bres.

          He lived in the southern Netherlands, in an area we now know as Belgium.

              He was one of the many God’s Spirit convicted and changed through the Reformation.

              A believer who was a preacher in the Reformed Churches.

 

     Now, the Netherlands received the Reformed faith with open arms.

          Of all the countries in Europe they most openly identified with the biblical faith.

              They even used the name John Calvin himself preferred for the Protestant Church – the Reformed Churches.

 

     But nowhere else in Europe did the people suffer more for their faith than they did in Holland.

          You see, Spain, the most powerful country of that day, ruled the Netherlands with an iron hand.

              The Spanish kings, who were very Roman Catholic, were determined to root out the Reformation.

     Under Charles V and Philip II, cruel dukes came to Holland to direct and carry out the torture and death of Protestants.

          All along the streets of the country, houses stood empty because whole families had been taken to be tortured and put to death.

              Thousands of people were burned, beheaded, hanged, buried alive, or drowned for their faith.

                   It is estimated that the kings of Spain killed anywhere from thirty to a hundred thousand Protestants in the territories they ruled.

 

     It was during this 80 year struggle that Guido de Bres himself became one of those martyred for the faith.

          His background is quite typical of many of the protestant preachers.

              He was brought up as a Roman Catholic but as a young man was converted to faith.

     He would have read the religious material banned under royal edicts.

          In 1547, he like many others, was forced to flee to England.

              There under the reforming reign of Edward VI he brushed shoulders with several outstanding Reformed leaders.                    There was John a Lasco, the Polish nobleman, Petrus Dathenus, later the father of liturgy of the Dutch churches, together with Martin Bucer, Peter Martyr, Ochino, Ridley, Latimer, and Thomas Cranmer.

    

     What a school of learning that would have been!

          Five years later, though, he was back, for the Roman Catholic Mary had come to the English throne and hundreds were being executed there.

             

     De Bres pastured faithfully in the city of Lille.

          Then once again he had to flee and this time he went to Frankfurt-on-the-Main, a German city which gave refugee to Protestants.

              From there he went on Switzerland for study in Lausanne and Geneva.

 

     In 1559 he returned to the southern Netherlands.

          It was a situation which had become much worse.

              Protestants were condemned as traitors to the state and openly persecuted.

                   Philip II conveniently lumped the Calvinists together with the extremes of the Anabaptists.

 

     It was to those charges and for the instruction of the believers that de Bres responded with his Confession which was addressed to King Philip.

          Again, just as he had finished his Confession of Faith, he had to flee once more.

              But he did manage to throw a copy of his Confession over the castle wall for the commissioners of the governor.

 

     Next he spent four and a half years labouring in French cities where there were many adherents to the reformed faith.

          He continued writing, particularly against the Anabaptists.

              And when he could he went into the Netherlands, even being in contact with William of Orange who had taken the Protestant side.

 

     After much pleading he returned to minister in his homeland.

          Once again there was a reaction from the authorities.

              This time he got out of a besieged city but was picked up soon after.

     While tortured severely, he refused to repudiate the faith.

          So on the 30th of May 1567, he was hanged.

              His body was then burned and his ashes scattered over the waters of the river.

 

     They had insulted him as much as they could in his death, as they knew the views of the protestants about the need to be properly buried.

          But that could not take away from what the Lord had done through him.

              Indeed, it wasn’t going to stop the Holy Spirit revival of the Church through the Reformation.

 

     For isn’t that what comes through in de Bres?

          He was not alone.

              He had brushed shoulders with many of the reformers in many different places.

 

     The Belgic Confession itself clearly shows this.

          For while it was distinctly his own work, it closely followed the appeal that was made to the new French king in the Gallican Confession of Faith at the same time.

 

     Now, some had urged him to use the Gallican Confession, or French Confession, as it’s also known.

          But because of the antipathy with France, the particular situation in his own country, and his own perception to the subjects of concern, de Bres wrote what we now call the Belgic Confession of Faith.

 

     It was a statement that had been done in consultation with a number of church leaders in the area.

          The title page indicates this.

 

     So what we find, congregation, in THE CAUSE FOR THIS CONFESSION is exactly that which has driven every genuine confession of faith throughout church history.

          In fact, for this time period, de Bres’ concern regarding the influence of the Anabaptists makes this a Confession which not only answered the error of Rome but also the errors which so much attacked the Church later and are very much upon us today.

              In the words of the great church historian Philip Schaff, this Confession is “the best symbolical statement of the Calvinistic system of doctrine, with the exception of the Westminster Confession which was written some eighty years later.”

 

     It’s relevant here to note the Bible texts de Bres used in his preface.

          One of these is Romans 10 verse 10.

              It speaks about the confession we need to make with our mouths.

     This is the confession every Christian ought to make.

          For every believer is a minister of Christ.

 

     Indeed, as the ICRC Mission Newsletter notes (#18, August 2007), the Reformers focused on Romans 10 as their rationale for witnessing to the world, rather than the Great Commission in Matthew 28.

          They saw that the Word must be declared through  those called of the Lord so that everyone would have to respond to God.

              Preachers are sent to appeal to people to call on the name of the Lord and be saved.

 

     We have noted, then, THE CAUSE FOR THIS CONFESSION.

          And so Article 1 brings us, secondly, to THE CORE TO THIS CONFESSION.

 

     Here we come to these words: “there is one only simple and spiritual Being, whom we call God.”

          For it is all about God!

             

     And it always was, wasn’t it?

          He had worked His Spirit in this revival.

              That’s what this first Article clearly tells.

 

     So we have here the same way that the Bible begins.

          For as Genesis 1 verse 1 declared, “In the beginning God!” so God’s people say together here.

    

     And the last chapter of the Bible’s last book proclaims the same.

          The Lord says in Revelation 22 verse 13, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the beginning and the End.”               

 

     In the same way, God is the beginning and end of our faith.

          And everything in-between as well!

 

     This is why whenever the Christian Church is reformed by the Lord it’s “theology” which becomes the Queen of all sciences.

          For God is the centre and starting-point of all things.

              All of creation only finds its true purpose when it is truly under Him.

 

     That’s why those who say that the Creeds of the church are cold, abstract and lifeless formulations are way off track.

          They actually couldn’t be more warm, and concrete and life-filled.

              For they have come out of what is very much in the heart of the Church.

     The heart which can only be the Holy Spirit.

          He applies God’s Word to God’s people.

 

     Congregation, this what we do when we sing together too.

          We praise God, declaring who He is and what He does.

              We glorify the One who has made us and who saves us!

 

     Let’s then look closer at the words in Article 1 here.

          To say that God “is” forms the basis for all true religion.

              Hebrews 11 confirms this as it says in verse 6, “anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

 

     Notice here that we don’t confess that we can prove God is there.

          You see, there are proofs that point to the divine being.

              People are inherently religious, creation clearly points to an intelligent design, and everyone in their consciences knows they’re accountable to a Higher Being.

     But they cannot be our proof.

          For not only might aspects of them be refuted but then we would be putting God’s existence under our insight and thinking.   

 

     We can only confess Scripture.

          That’s God’s Word.

              You get no word in on this!

 

     Then there is the word “one.”

          God is one God.

              The consistent chorus in Scripture are those words of Deuteronomy 6 verse 4.

                   For there are the words, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the LORD is one.”

 

     God is the only God.

          He is sovereign.

              There is no other.

 

     Psalm 115 speaks of this when it describes the gods of the heathen as being but figments of man’s imagination.

          And the same equally applies today as people speak of the ying and the yang in life, or the way they can do the right thing.

              We aren’t gods!

                   There’s no amount of karma you can collect which will make things right for you!

 

     We also confess God as being a “simple” being.

          This means He is not divided or in different parts.

              He’s totally different than humans who have bodies and souls.

     What He does is what He is.

          1 John 5 verse 1 is clear as the apostle says, “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.”

 

     Through this word “simple” this Confession joins itself with the ancient creeds of the Church.

          You cannot take the persons of the Trinity away from the divine essence.

              Not will there ever be the slightest contradiction or conflict between any of the divine attributes.

 

     It is this God who we next declare to be “spiritual.”

          This means he’s completely different from what He has made.

              He’s nothing like us.

     Mind you, that doesn’t mean He sometimes describes Himself with human attributes.

          Scripture speaks of his hands and feet and eyes.

              But they are figurative expressions which God uses to help us understand who He is and how He works.

     The reality is that we worship Him recognising He is definitely something we are not.

          In the words of John 4 verse 24, “God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

 

     The Confession calls the divine being “God.”

          There are, of course, other names used for God.

              This one, however, draws them altogether.

     And it is this God which Article 1 next goes on to describe in His qualities.

          Thus we come to the third aspect to considering Article 1.

              For here we consider THE CHARACTER OF THIS CONFESSION.

 

     Notice that this point may be taken two ways.

          We could see the word “character” as referring to how this Confession is shaped.

              But what we’re really meeting seeing here are the attributes of the One whom this Confession is all about.

                   It’s about God’s character.

 

     By God being called “eternal” we note that He indeed has no beginning or end.

          The Lord transcends all time and space.

              And yet He fills all that time and space!

     Psalm 90 is so descriptive about this.

          In verse 2 it says, “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”

              And so in verse 12 of the same psalm we see our confessing this teaches us to “number our days aright.”

 

     Then God is called “incomprehensible.”

          That means we cannot understand Him.

              There’s no way we can work out what He’s doing or what He’s like.

     Here we must cry out with the prophet in Isaiah 40 verse 18, “To whom, then, will you compare God?

          “What image will you compare him to?”

              Congregation, He is the great and mighty God.

                   He’s full of majesty.

 

     And then we come next to God being “invisible.”

          You can’t see Him.

             

     Well, you can’t can you?

          As Jesus says in John 3 the Holy Spirit is like the wind.

              You know it’s there but you can’t see it.

 

     But especially this means that no one can know God.

          Except, of course, by the Son.

              In the words of John 1 verse 18, “No one has ever seen God, but God the only Son, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.”

 

     Next there is the “immutability” of God.

          God’s essential being doesn’t change.

              And neither does what He does, what he plans to do, and what He promises to do.

     What a comfort that is!

          Because people can so quickly change.

              And isn’t it so devastating then!

     But God stays the same.

          As He says in James 1 verse 17, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

 

     God is also “infinite.”

          He is without limits.

              And so we’re reminded that we cannot get away from his presence.

     Psalm 139 verse 7 is quite clear about this.

          There David declares to God, “Where can I go from your Spirit?

              “Where can I flee from your presence?”

 

     And what about God’s power?

          Here it is called His “might.”

              This is what He declared through the angel to Mary in Luke 1 verse 37.

                   There we hear the words, “For nothing is impossible with God.”

 

     Congregation, so far we have confessed six qualities or perfections in relation to God.

          Qualities which we may put under the heading of “incommunicable.”

              For there’s no way nothing like any of these can be found in us.

                   They are uniquely God’s alone.

 

     But the next three are a little different.

          For they are “communicable.”

              Some reflection of them is found in man created after the likeness of God.

 

     The first of these is God being “perfectly wise.”

          He knows it all.

              And to a certain degree, by faith, we can have some of that knowledge too.

                  

     This is what Psalm 104 speaks of.

          In verse 24 it says, “How many are your works, O LORD!

              “In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.”

 

     Article 1 follows this with talking about “just.”

          God is righteous in who he is and what He does.

              He is holy – and His holiness comes through as he rewards good and punishes evil.

     There is more than a “big man up there,” to use colloquial language.

          He is involved in our lives right down here.

              As Isaiah 40 verse 14 says rhetorically, “Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way?

                   “Who was it that taught him knowledge or showed him the path of understanding?”

 

     This also means that God is the only one who’s truly good.

          As our Lord Jesus said in Mark 10 verse 18, “No one is good – except God alone.”

              He is perfectly perfect!

     No wonder that we find in Psalm 136 the chorus at the end of each verse declaring, “His love endures forever.”

          For it does!

              He’s absolutely good!

             

     And that’s how Article 1 concludes the qualities of God.

          For this list of His attributes ends with confessing that He is “the overflowing fountain of all good.”

 

     So we come to recognising that the only way we can really know this God is by faith.

          Only if it’s on your heart can it come from the heart.

              Only as you have experienced that love flowing over into your life can you tell and show it to others.

     It’s in God’s light that you truly see.

          Let’s learn to so grow in this knowledge that we too will treasure it as the reformers and all true saints of the past did.

 

     Let’s be willing to die for it.

          Because then you’ll really live!

              Amen.

 

 

PRAYER:

Let’s pray…

     Lord God, we are completely humbled by hearing just this brief description of who You are and what You have done.

          Guide us then, by Your Spirit, to look all the more to You in Your Word.

              In the Name of the Living Word, Christ Jesus Himself, we pray, Amen.

         

    




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Sjirk Bajema, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: www.rcnz.org.nz

(c) Copyright 2007, Rev. Sjirk Bajema

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