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Belgic Confession of Faith

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Belgic Confession of Faith

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Ariticle 15

This is a very striking article. It tells us about the reality of our state by nature in which we are all conceived and born. This article is very much against human pride. It speaks of the corruption which already cleaves to little infants and is spread throughout their whole nature.

This “hereditary disease wherewith infants themselves are infected even in their mother’s womb is sufficient to condemn all mankind.” This article also has a spiritual application for the church of God. “The sense of this corruption should make believers often to sigh, desiring to be delivered from this body of death.”

The article speaks about original sin. What is that? It is a hereditary disease which infects even the children in their mother’s womb and produces in man all sorts of sin as a root thereof.

We know how Adam took the forbidden fruit and disobeyed God’s command. All our sins, whatever they may be, of omission or commission, in thoughts, words, and deeds, all come from one bitter root, the rebellion and disobedience of our first father in Paradise. This original sin is present in everyone from their birth. Yea, we are even conceived and born in sin. Thus sin does not come by imitation, as Pelagius said.

Original sin is also the inward root of all our actual sins. All the sins we commit come from that first sin, from that root of evil, that corrupt fountain which we all carry in our life. This is an article about the sad inheritance from all Adam’s posterity. Only Christ, the second Adam, was free from it, for He was conceived by the Holy Ghost.

Adam fell away from God. There he lost God’s image, and we in him. How must we view our relationship with Adam, our first father? It is a twofold relationship. First of all, Adam is our covenant head. Secondly, he is also our natural father. We are all related to him. We all belong to the same human race. Adam as covenant head represented all of us. By virtue of that covenant relationship, the guilt of that one sin of Adam is imputed to us as his posterity. Thus we came into the world in a guilty state. We read in Romans 5:18, “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation.” In this state of guilt we are debtors to the holy justice of God.

However, Adam was also our natural father. We are all descendants of him. And by virtue of that relationship there is something else that comes to us - not only the guilt, but also the pollution which we inherit from him. The guilt is imputed to us and the pollution is inherited. You can also read this in Jeremiah 13:23, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.” Our human heart is polluted by sin, and is completely corrupted by this hereditary disease and corruption.

Theologians have discussed the question, “What is first? the guilt imputed to us or the pollution inherited?” Some, for instance from the University of Saumur, such as Amyraldus (or Amyraud), taught that man does not inherit original guilt, but only pollution. Amyraldus said that man comes into the world being polluted. Because of that he has that innate, inherited inclination which is corrupt, and therefore he begins to sin. Then the Lord says, “Because he is like Adam, his first father, I now impute to him that first sin of Adam, that is, the guilt of Adam’s sin.” They say that first there is the pollution, and then the guilt But this is in conflict with Romans 5.

Our Reformed fathers have said that we first broke the covenant of works. This is what we did in Adam. We are covenant breakers, and that guilt is imputed to us. Then the Lord also withdrew His image. God took His image away from Adam. We read in Genesis 5:3, “And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image.” That is our picture. We are born after the image of our first father. We are guilty, but now we also are polluted.

Secondly, there are also actual sins. Man’s breaking of the covenant of works with God has abolished the possibility of his earning eternal life through his works. However, man’s fall has not ended God’s requirements. God still justly demands perfect righteousness and holiness. Even little children are polluted while still in the womb of their mothers. The question then arose, “How does this pollution then come to us?” Does it come by propagation, by being transmitted from mother to child?

Luther taught traducianism: The child receives the soul via the mother. There is another view which we call pre-existentialism, which means: before our existence. This view implies that the souls of man existed already in a previous state before we were born or conceived in our mother’s womb. Before the history of mankind, they would say, the souls were already created. Such a soul is then given to the body which is created in time, but the soul existed before the creation of the body. The third view is called creationism. This means that the Lord creates every living soul at the appointed time. When life begins, then the Lord creates that soul perfectly, for His creation is always perfect. The Lord cannot do a polluted work, but He withdrew His image because of the imputation of the guilt of Adam which is upon us. Therefore we come into the world without the image of God. This last view, we believe, is the biblical one. Therefore when we ask the question, “How does sin come in us? how does that pollution come within us?” we must say that it comes from our first father, the guilt being imputed to us by God. Therefore God withdraws His image from the soul. Then we read in Psalm 51 that David testifies, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”

Original sin is original guilt. This is denied by Pelagians, Semi-Pelagians, and some Remonstrants, but we find it clearly in God’s Word, such as in Romans 5:12, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” We also read in Ephesians 2:3, “Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” In Adam we all died; we all lost God’s image. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22).

Original sin is also original pollution, that is, absence of original righteousness and the presence of positive evil. Pelagius taught that man comes into the world as a tabula rasa, which is a blank sheet of paper. Nothing has been written upon it, and sin then comes by imitation, by following the wrong examples. The Semi-Pelagians believe that man is born without original beauty and strength, but is sick and needs helping grace. Also, the older Remonstrants acknowledge that there is pollution inherited from our forefathers, but they do not agree with an imputation of guilt. In their view, man is a mere victim, a poor creature, for he comes into the world being deprived of his original beauty. He is polluted, but in their view he is not guilty. However, we are not victims, but are a people to be pitied, for we are guilty before a holy and a righteous God.

Total depravity is the consequence of that which took place in Paradise. Now we are totally deprived of all our human glory and of the image of God. The inherited corruption extends to every part of man - his nature and all his faculties. There is no spiritual good in the fallen sinner in relation to God, but only perversion.

Arminius denied this total depravity. He taught that man could at least say “Yes” to God, and could accept the hand extended to him, letting God come into his heart and begin His work. Arminius did teach that man indeed would be unable to do anything himself in order to restore that which he had brought upon himself and upon his posterity, but said that Christ came and merited grace. By virtue of that grace, God’s common grace given to man, he is able, with the help of the Lord, to turn unto God and believe. That which the Lord gives is “a gracious ability.” No, man does not have a natural ability, Arminius said, but he has a gracious ability, because Christ died for all mankind. This is the doctrine of universal redemption, teaching that if we use our free will, we will be able to turn back into the right path.

But original pollution also implies total inability. Although Reformed theologians generally teach that fallen man may perform natural, civil, and externally religious good, these works are filthy rags, polluted by sin. God can only accept perfect works which are done out of love to God, and in complete obedience to the will of God which He requires of them. Man is unable to do any spiritual good! That is a humiliating doctrine for proud man. Have we already learned to know this reality?

Karl Barth also spoke of man’s inability, acknowledging that he is unable to move one step back to God. Yet he denied the imputation of guilt, although he viewed man as one family of which everyone now has the same tendency. We have all become rebels.

Rome also errs in regard to this Biblical doctrine. It teaches that original sin can be washed away by the water of baptism, and that this water also renews man initially, although he still needs helping and confirming grace. For that he needs the clergy. Thus the church has become a mediator. As such, Mary also has a special place. In their view the mother of Jesus had no original sin. Pope Leo XIII declared that Mary was a partner with Jesus in that difficult work of redemption. In 1950 the Roman Catholic Church also stated that Mary ascended into heaven and that she is really the gate through which the Lord Jesus could enter into this world. They say that Mary, by her obedience and humility, after having heard the invitation of God, became the cause that Christ was brought into this world. Scripture tells us something quite different. Mary also needed the same gift. Read what she sang, “My spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour” (Luke 1:47).

Baptism does not abolish or do away with our sins. Baptism is a sign and seal of God’s grace. What does that grace do? It imputes to us the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, which abolishes sin and causes the sinner to be acquitted of all his original and actual guilt. The pollution of sin still cleaves to that sinner to the very end, but it causes the true believer to have a sense of his corruption, making him to often sigh and desire to be delivered from this body of death.

Calvin says in his ‘Institutes’ that “original sin is that corruption of our nature which makes us guilty to the wrath of God and produces in us the works of the flesh. Believers are assured in baptism that this judgment is taken from them and that God imputes to them the righteousness of God by grace. Baptism promises to us the immersion of our Pharaoh in the water, and the dying of sin.” Calvin says that baptism promises to us the dying, the drowning, the immersion, the going down into the water of our Pharaoh. Baptism promises us that this Pharaoh will die one day, this Pharaoh, not the Pharaoh who once live in Egypt, but that bitter enemy, that body of sin and death. That will die and will never come up out of the water anymore, for it is buried with Christ in that water, just as Pharaoh was buried in the water of the Red Sea.

Baptism promises to us the death of sin, but not as if those sins would no longer exist, but that they would not prevail anymore. Calvin says that if we may believe that promise of God and be steadfast in grace, “then sin will not have dominion, neither reign in us.” That is now the comfort of that people who sigh here under the body of sin and death. Sin will not reign in them and will not have the final word. Sin is still there, but it is already objectively buried with Christ. When Christ died, when He went down into the water of God’s wrath, then He took with Him our Pharaoh into that water so that he would never come up again. This is the comfort for all those who by grace have become a partaker of Him and with grief have learned to know that Pharaoh in their own lives.

Dear friends, do you sigh under this sense of corruption? Do you have the practice of this? Do you say, “Lord, by moments I long to be delivered of everything that is of myself? Not because of the misery or the consequences of sin, or because of all the trials and tribulation that this has caused in the world, but because of sin itself. They say, “Lord, when may I depart? When may I be delivered of this Pharaoh?”

May the Lord grant unto us this longing and desire, which is only possible if a new principle of life and the love of God has been poured out in our heart. If we have become a new creature who hates sin and longs to be holy and to live according to the original purpose of our creation, that is to the glory of God. May God grant this desire and work it in many hearts. He who is in Christ is a new creature! May that be true for us and our children.

Rev. Vogelaar serves the congregation of Franklin Lakes, New Jersey.

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Bekijk de hele uitgave van zondag 1 augustus 1993

The Banner of Truth | 24 Pagina's

Belgic Confession of Faith

Bekijk de hele uitgave van zondag 1 augustus 1993

The Banner of Truth | 24 Pagina's

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