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Author:Rev. Sjirk Bajema
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Congregation:Reformed Church of Mangere
 South Auckland, New Zealand
Title:The Rise & Fall of Man!
Text:BC 14 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

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.


(Reading: Genesis 1:26-3:24)


The Rise & Fall of Man!



Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ...


     This was quite a long Scripture reading, wasn’t it?

          And yet within just over two chapters – 55 verses all up – haven’t we seen so much happen?


     We began the reading with mankind being placed very high.

          And what immense privileges came with that!


     Then there was his most sudden fall!

          With all its terrible consequences coming quickly behind!


     The title for our sermon this afternoon is so apt: This is indeed, ‘The Rise and Fall of Man.’

          How the mighty have fallen!


     This is the story Genesis 1 till 3 tells us.   

          And because it is such a rich and involved passage about man, it is also what we can use to illustrate Article XIV.

              For this Article teaches us about the exact same thing.

                   It tells us of ‘The Creation and Fall of Man, and His Incapacity To Perform What Is Truly Good.’


     Congregation, in the previous Article – Article XIII – we confessed that God made all things as seemed good to Him.

          He gave to every creature its being, shape, form and position.


     But now all that is raised another level.

          After the process of creation described some six times as good in Genesis 1, there comes the last part of creation.

              It’s following that last creature being made by God that the whole process is described as “very good.”


     So, let’s see firstly then, THE PRIVILEGED POSITION GOD GAVE.

          Because that’s how it’s described about man at the end of Genesis 1.

              Verse 26 says, “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.”


     That is exactly how Article XIV begins.

          There we confess, “We believe that God created man out of the dust of the earth, and made and formed after His own image and likeness, good, righteous, and holy, capable in all things to will agreeable to the will of God.”

              It’s quite clear THE PRIVILEGED POSITION GOD GAVE.


     So special is man that he outranks even the angels of heaven!

          But in that privileged place he is yet completely dependent upon God.

              Mentioning Genesis 2 verse 7 about man being formed from the dust of the earth puts mankind in his place.

                   He is a creature of time and space.


     So man is a created being.

          And yet He’s uniquely created – His spiritual nature was breathed into Him by God.

              He’s quite different than anything else.


     There are two ways Article XIV shows the privileged position man has.

          The first of these is in how he is made.

              Genesis 1 verse 27 says, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”


     So what is this “image” of God that man has?

          Is it something in the qualities we have?

              You know, like being able to think or rationalise?

     If that were so, then angels would also be God’s image.

          But that’s not said anywhere in Scripture.

              Rather, man was God’s image, His representative, as He did what God appointed him to do.


     For example, he was God’s image in his righteous dominion over all creatures.

          So he was made to reflect God when He did that.

              His naming all the animals shows his good rule.


     The second way Article XIV shows the privileged position man has is in the gifts he’s given to reflect God’s image.

          For example, Genesis 1:28 speaks of man being commissioned to rule over creatures.

              Well, he only got the gifts for doing that from God.

     But having those gifts didn’t mean man was automatically God’s image.

          It was when those gifts were used the right way that he bore God’s image.

              This is what Psalm 8 is describing.


     But this privileged position God gave at the creation could be lost.

          It was a test laid before man.

              And didn’t we read how badly he did!

                   He failed miserably.


     And it was it was all because of THE DESPICABLE DECISION MAN MADE.

          Our second aspect.


     I use the word ‘despicable’ because that means ‘deserving hatred or contempt.’

          And that’s what man did.

              He bit the hand that fed him!


     You see, it had been clearly outlined in Genesis 2 what man needed to do to stay in that privileged position.

          He had to keep to God’s will.


     Sometime we call this condition God laid upon Adam the ‘covenant of works.’

          Now, we all know about the ‘covenant of grace.’

              That was the gracious agreement the Lord made with Abraham.

     There in Genesis 12 and following it’s quite clear that it’s all God’s work that saves His covenant people.

          And it’s a promise that was ultimately fulfilled by God Himself in His Son, Jesus Christ.

              He was the only one who could fulfil God’s righteous demands.


     Here in Genesis 2, though, it is man himself who could have chosen not to sin.

          He should have obeyed the Lord and he would still be in paradise today.

              But in Genesis 3 we read of how one of the fallen angels, which we heard about earlier in Article XII, used the very way God had made man to tempt him to go against God’s way.


     That would not have been an easy situation.

          I’m sure you’ve thought of how it could have been if there was only someone else there than Adam.

              Someone with a bit more moral fibre.

                   Someone with the power to put that devil in his place!


     Adam was the representative of us all, though.

          As he stood there, in his pre-fallen state, he acted on our behalf.

              He was our ‘Federal Head’ - as the theologians describe him.


     Now, we know Satan went through the woman.

          He played to the field.

              He looked for the best possible opening.

                   And perhaps it was the only opening he could’ve got through.


     But that’s all academic now.

          For right next to Eve is Adam.

              Genesis 3 verse 6 says, “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.”


     Adam is there as any one of us would have been there.

          He had every resource and ability to do the right thing.

              As Article XIV says, he had received “the commandment of life.”


     He had God’s clear directions laid out.

          Which is something most people now just wouldn’t have a clue about!


     This is why what Adam did was despicable.

          There is no excuse for the decision he made.

              He really blew it!

                   He changed everything for the worse.


     By willingly submitting to sin, the lifeline was broken with God.

          The covenant with God was terminated by man!

              And that spoiled everything.

     For it was only in relationship with God that man had those qualities and resources which made him privileged.

          Take that position away and you’ve lost it all!


     So fallen is man that he’s totally unable to do any good.

          Instead, he is inclined to all evil.


     It’s seen soon enough in the rest of Genesis.

          In chapter 6 verse 5 we read, “The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.

              And then verse 6 there shows how really bad it is.

                   It says, “The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.”


     Job said the same in Job 14.

          There in verse 4 he asks his friends, “Who can bring what is pure from the impure?

              And the answer he gives is obvious: “No one!”


     In this way we come to a third aspect in Article XIV.

          For now we see THE CONTINUAL CORRUPTION SIN IS.


     Congregation, the decision man made to sin was despicable because it was his very own decision.

          No one twisted his arm.

              He wasn’t missing anything so that his decision wasn’t full informed.

     It is different than man’s situation now.

          Because now man does not know the right thing to do.

              In fact, everything he does – even what seem like the very best things – is covered in sin.

     The verses 15 till 19 of Genesis 3 have come very true.

          Mankind is now certainly cursed!


     But Adam was “in honour.”

          He had it all!

              And he blew it all!


     This is why it’s important that we believe the first three chapters to be as historically literal as all fifty chapters of Genesis.

          If we don’t believe that Adam and Eve were actual human beings we pull the carpet from under all of the rest of the Bible.

              For if there was no paradise lost why does there need to be a paradise regained?

                   Why then a second Adam, if there were no first?


     Then those who opposed the apostle Paul by saying there was no resurrection of the dead are true after all.

          Because Christ was only raised in victory over our sin.

              The very sin Adam brought into this world!


     In fact, the consequences of Adam’s sin were so great that even when God’s Son Himself came, no one recognised Him.

          John 1 verse 5 says, “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.”

              And further on in John 1 verse 10, the apostle writes, “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him.”


     Now, imagine if Christ had come to Adam and Eve before they fell into sin.

          They would have known Him straight-away.

              Actually, He was the One they walked with everyday!

                   They had the perfect communion with Him there in paradise.


     So from a state of continually growing in grace, man was now in this vortex of sin.

          Everything was spiralling down.

              And soon enough it was so bad there was the judgment of the flood upon man.

     But that judgment didn’t delay sin continuing its decay.

          While God time and again saves us from ourselves, it’s clear enough that we ourselves don’t see that.

              Listen to all those eulogies spoken for Sir Edmund Hillary if you have any doubts about that!


     Now, Article XIV does speak of some “small remains” of the gifts man has received from God.

          But as we’ve heard from John 1 man doesn’t naturally see that light.

              While even in his very soul he has the sense of the divine, it cannot make him see unless God opens his eyes to see.

     Because man is spiritually blind.

          While he may say all kinds of words about religion and good deeds, he doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about!

              In fact, all of man’s teachings about religion shows how un-spiritual they are by denying the gospel of grace!


     This is where the last paragraph of Article XIV fits in.

          Because right through the New Testament Church there has been this debate at the heart of the Church.


     Augustine and Pelagius were in opposition over this.

          For Pelagius said that there was still enough natural goodness in man to enable him to do the right thing.


     You can see why his teachings are found in the Roman Catholic church.

          Because then you don’t need to hear and be convicted by the gospel.

              Then Mother Teresa is in heaven, despite all the doubts she had and her complete misunderstanding about the gospel, because she was able to live a good life.

                   They’ll no doubt say she and Sir Ed are right now up there enjoying a nice cup of tea!


     It was the same debate that came up in the early 17th century.

          The Synod of Dordt was called to deal with the semi-pelagianism of the Arminians.


     The last paragraph in Article XIV simply states what the Bible says about this.

          It is clear that those who believe that somehow man can contribute something to his own salvation haven’t got it wrong or don’t know enough.

              It is because they refuse to surrender to God’s grace.

     They’re holding out for their own way.

          They’re committing Adam’s sin all over again!


     It’s like the story about Theotimus.

          He had carried on a life of so much drunkenness and sexual immorality that the doctors told him if he didn’t stop he would lose his eyesight.

              He was so wrapped up in his sin, though, he answered them, “Then farewell, sweet light.”

     He would rather lose his eyes than leave his sins.

          Which is exactly what man is like today.

              He is so bewitched with sin that he has no interest in the things of God.


     So Article 14 ends with the most appropriate words of the Lord Jesus.

          For in John 15 verse 5 He said, “apart from me you can do nothing.”


     And you can’t – can you?    





Let’s pray…

     O Lord God, how much didn’t we blow it all!

          We broke with You and now all that we are and everything we do is broken too.

              All we can do is look to You.

     Because it’s only You who can do anything.

          We’re trapped forever in our sin.

              We wouldn’t even know to look to You, we’re so blind!

     But You help us to see.

          Through sending Your one and only Son the second Adam has come.

              He didn’t fail.

     And so it is we pray in His Name alone.

          In Jesus’ Name we plead, Amen.








* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Sjirk Bajema, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
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(c) Copyright 2008, Rev. Sjirk Bajema

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