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Author:Rev. Steven Swets
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Congregation:Immanuel Covenant Reformed Church
 Abbotsford, BC
Title:Lies Christians Believe
Text:LD 8 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

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

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 1:1-14

Heidelberg Catechism: Lord’s Day 8

Beloved Congregation in the Lord Jesus Christ,

            In Acts 16 we witness a miraculous event. Paul and Silas are in prison and in the night they are praying together and singing hymns and then all of a sudden an earthquake shakes the earth. The doors on the prison shook loose and everyone’s chains fell off. The Philippian jailer fell down and was about to kill himself, but Paul said, wait, do not harm. The jailer turns to Paul and says, “what must I do to be saved.” What was Paul’s response? Believe! Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. Verse 32 of Acts 16 says, “Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.” What did they speak? They spoke the word of God from the scriptures. However, they obviously did not speak the whole scriptures, but rather shared the gospel.

            The catechism explains three documents to us. They are the Apostle’s Creed, the Ten Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer. Some might object and say, two of those are written by God, but the Apostle’s Creed is written by man. Are they right? Yes, the Apostle’s Creed, just like the catechism itself are written by man. So why do we teach them? What, we don’t think the Bible is enough?

            Being a solid, confessional church today makes us, in some ways, a dying breed. In other ways, the younger generation is seeing the need for stability and a solid foundation to keep us from being tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine. In this sermon we will look at a number of lies/myths that we are handed from both believers and unbelievers alike. Our theme is We confess one God in three persons as revealed in scripture.

I.                    Confessional Myths/lies

II.                  Trinitarian Myths/lies

I. Confessional Lies

            We live in a day and age where the memory is extremely short for what has happened in the past. A history teacher in the modern school faces an uphill battle, to say the least. One area we can see the lack of historical emphasis is on the need for creeds and confessions. We ought to thank God for the confessions and creeds that we have. We ought to be thankful for the men God raised up to write them. But not every church holds to creeds. After all, they are old and dusty...what did they know about our modern problems back then. Even for many of us, our former denomination began to devalue the creeds and confessions and chip away at orthodoxy. This is the first lie we are faced with.

            Myth #1 “We only need the Bible, not creeds or confessions.” To put this objection another way, they might say we have no creed but Christ. Our answer to them, yes you do. Everyone has confessions or beliefs that are non-negotiable.

            When I lived in Grand Rapids, about two blocks away from my house was a church and on the church sign it said, “no creed but Christ.” I thought really. Now, who is Christ? If I walked into that church and said, I also believe in Christ, can I join? They would be obligated to say yes presumably. But, what if someone walked in there and said, I belief and am wholly committed to the Bible and to Christ, in fact, I am a King James Version only guy, but, I am a Mormon. Would they object? Or what if is their position on infant baptism? Likely, a church in that situation will have local ordinances written down to address these issues. Those are confessions to them. There is no such thing as a church that holds to the idea that they have “no creed, but Christ.

            Another objection to the myth/lie of ‘give me only the Bible’ is this is a denial of the progress of redemptive history since the time of Christ. This mentality has been the cry of heretics for centuries. Heretics have often said, “I believe every word of the Bible.” The Bereans are examples of those in the NT who took what they had heard and then examined it with the scriptures. A judgement sometimes must be made. All of our creeds and confessions are responses to one heresy or another. When someone is teaching something that is not true and saying that it is, it must be clarified that it is unbiblical and then the biblical doctrine must be explained. This is what our confessions do.

            There is always an answer to the question of “what does a church believe?” Some explain this with historical and time tested statements of faith that summarize the teaching of scripture, and others write up their own beliefs according to the whim of their pastor or their elder board. No creed but Christ is a Myth.

Myth #2 Doctrine Divides, love unites. This might sound good, this idea might even make you feel good, give you the warm-fuzzies inside, but it is a myth. There is no true unity unless that unity is built upon Jesus Christ. This at least is the unity that is pleasing to God. True unity is built on the truth.

            You may have noticed in the news over the past few weeks what has been going on in Wisconsin in the U.S. The teacher’s union is striking against the government who is cutting back spending. The teachers union, which is powerful, is united together. Is that pleasing to God? No way. The governor pretty much said, “stop complaining and get back to work.” Good. They need to take a deeper look at the 5th commandment.

            Doctrine divides, love unites, this is the cry of the hippie generation, this is a completely man centered approach to life in the church. This does not spring forth from understanding the work and sacrifice of Christ for our salvation and then our call to respond to it in faith.

Myth #3 Doesn’t “sola scriptura” mean that we cannot have any creeds. This is the cry of the RCC after the days of the Reformation. Sola scripture means scripture alone, not scripture only. There is a difference. Scripture alone, not alongside the tradition is to be decision maker of what we must believe and how we ought to live our lives.

            Anything that is taught us, concerning our doctrine or life, if it is not in accord with the scriptures, must be rejected, root and branch. The creeds do carry with them a certain authority, but this authority is under or subservient to the authority of the scriptures, and these creeds and confessions only have authority because they are faithful to the teaching of scripture.

            Realize, that is was the same Reformers who defended sola scriptura, are often the same one who themselves came out with confessions and catechism. Also, the first 7 ecumenical councils of the early church were recognized as being authoritative because they were faithful. This is what it all comes down to. It comes down to the scriptures.

            During the days of the Reformation, there was a great desire among the Reformers to get the Bible into the hands of the people, instead of just having ministers who are able to read it in Latin. The RCC argued that if you give uneducated people the Bible, they will all go astray and every private interpretation of the scriptures will be deemed valid. The scriptures in the common language are one of the greatest blessings of the Reformation, but they argument given by the RCC is still ringing true today. Any off the wall interpretation is deemed acceptable. Someone wants to deny the creation of the heavens and the earth out of the nothing by God, okay, well, that is being taught in our schools today. How do we protect from this? Interpret the scriptures through the guidance and with the backdrop of the confessions. You’re evangelical friends might object to this, but this will help protect you from falling into all kinds of false teaching. We believe in sola scriptura, that scripture alone is our standard for doctrine and life. But, we can be aided by our confession and creeds in our understanding of scripture.

            Those are three myths we might hear about confessions and creeds, that a church believes no creed but Christ, that doctrine divides and love unites, and that sola scriptura is not compatible with creeds.

II. Trinitarian Myths

            Trinitarian Myth #1 Believing in the Trinity is polytheism (belief in many gods) or tri-theism (belief in three gods). Christians confess that there is one God. This is clearly taught in the scriptures. Deuteronomy 6:4 says, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” I read this week on a discussion of a Muslim woman who was using that verse to argue that Christians and Muslims both worship and serve the same God. All three, so called, Western religions are monotheist. They are Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.

            What sets us apart, in terms of our theology, that is, doctrine of God, is the Trinity. In order to properly answer this objection charging us with tre-theism, we must know, very clearly what we believe and why. There is one God in three persons. These three persons are not different modes of God, they are not different ways of speaking of God, they are three distinct, and yet perfectly united God, whom we call God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

            We believe this because this is how God has revealed himself in the scriptures. Q. 25 asks (read Q and A). God is one, God is true, God is eternal. The doctrine of the Trinity is foundational to understand the world. The Trinity is the explanation of how there can be unity among diversity or diversity among unity, or as philosophers have called it, the problem of the one and the many.

            This brings us to the second myth. Myth #2 is that the trinity is illogical. This is not true. The Trinity, like God himself, is superlogical, it is above logic. If you explained the doctrine of the Trinity to someone who had never heard it before, they would not grasp it. They might be able to understand it, but they will not fully comprehend it. This is because God is incomprehensible.

            All of the things we know in this life that can be seen are temporary, were created, have extreme limitations etc. But God is not. He is eternal, unchaninging, he has no emotions. God does not get happy or sad. To speak that way is just to describe God in human terms, which is okay when he does it, but God is completely different than us. He is the Creator, we are the creature. All we can know about God He has revealed to us. The general revelation testifies of his greatness and power, but the scriptures reveal his work in Christ and the scriptures give us His name.

            Myth #3 The three divisions of the Apostle’s Creed lean toward God being isolated from Himself or from the persons. This could also be considered an attack against the Apostle’s Creed itself.

            As you know, the Apostle’s Creed is the oldest of our creeds and it is divided into three parts. The last QA of LD 7 gave the creed in its fullness and now in QA 24 we are asked about its divisions. (Read QA 24) That seems simple enough, God created us, the Son delivered us, and the Holy Spirit sanctifies us. But is that what is in accord with the scriptures. Weren’t all three member of the Trinity present and active in creation.

            Gen. 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” It also says in Gen. 1, “and the spirit hovered over the surface of the deep.” Paul exclaims, “through Christ, by whom all things were made.” Christ is also the creating word of God. All three members of the Trinity were active in creation.

            In our reading from Ephesians 1, we see that God the Father chose us in Christ, there in delieverance, we can see the first two members of the Trinity present, and we could continue along those lines. In Eph. 1:1-14, which is very Trinitarian, we see all three members of the Trinity active and present. What do we make of this? Is the Creed wrong?

            No, the creed is referring to the primary ways that that each member of the Trinity performs his saving work. We must distinguish between the members of the Trinity, but we do so, knowing that they are one. The work of creation is not exclusive to God the Father, and so on down the line.

            Those are our responses to these three Trinitarian myths. There are certainly many more lies, myths, and heresies, some of which will come to the fore as we continue in the catechism. The three myths are that we are tri-theists, that belief in the Trinity is illogical, and that the Creed is inaccurate between it pits the members of the Trinity against each other by showing their unique work.

            We believe that there is one God in three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We believe this because this is how God has revealed himself in His word. All three persons of the Trinity are distinct, and yet they are one, true, eternal God.

            Brothers and sisters, you must see this discussion, not just as an academic exercise, but we must understand in order to defend. We will be attacked as more and more religions and people pour into the Fraser Valley. We must know that our Father created, our Lord has delivered us through His blood, and the Holy Spirit sanctifies us and give us the daily strength to strive through this life. Amen.   

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Steven Swets, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2011, Rev. Steven Swets

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