Everyday Doctrines - Man Created and Fallen
It is an election year and our expectations are great. But are they greater than the men and women we are trusting in to uphold our expectations? We believe God is just (Rom.3:25-26) and that he has created a world and filled it with image bearers who should pursue justice (Gen.9:6). But is this world filled with men and women who are just and who pursue justice? The Belgic Confession, Article 14 teaches us that,
“God created man from the dust of the earth and made and formed him in his image and likeness-- good, just, and holy; able by his own will to conform in all things to the will of God.”
In this original creation and sustaining of God’s image bearers the first man Adam, and his wife Eve, reflected the image of God in justice and righteousness. But this did not continue.
The Confession in Article 14 goes on to tell us,
“But he subjected himself willingly to sin and consequently to death and the curse, lending his ear to the word of the devil. For he transgressed the commandment of life, which he had received, and by his sin he separated himself from God, who was his true life, having corrupted his entire nature. So he made himself guilty and subject to physical and spiritual death, having become wicked, perverse, and corrupt in all his ways. He lost all his excellent gifts which he had received from God, and he retained none of them except for small traces which are enough to make him inexcusable.”
Guido de Bres (1522-1567) tells us that man in his ‘entire nature is corrupted,’ ‘is corrupt in all his ways’, and ‘lost all his excellent gifts which he had received from God.’ We see the reality of this immediately after Adam and Eve sin against God. They do not own up to their own fault and guilt but unjustly blame (Gen.3:12-13). As the narrative continues we find injustice in the relationship between their sons, as Cain devalues the life of his brother, killing him because God accepted his brothers worship and not his own(Gen.4:1-8). As we follow their line of descendants we have the first ‘Gansta Rap’ expressed in lyrical injustice as Lamech raps to his wives,
“Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say: I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me. If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold, the Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold.” (Gen.4:23-24)
Therefore, according to God’s authoritative Word and the Belgic Confession, man is only capable of upholding justice and acting justly when he is enabled by God. This is further substantiated by the Belgic Confession, Article 14:
"Therefore we reject everything taught to the contrary concerning man's free will, since man is nothing but the slave of sin and cannot do a thing unless it is "given him from heaven."... And therefore, what the apostle says ought rightly to stand fixed and firm: "God works within us both to will and to do according to his good pleasure." For there is no understanding nor will conforming to God's understanding and will apart from Christ's involvement, as he teaches us when he says, "Without me you can do nothing."
This does not mean that man cannot believe in justice, uphold justice or act justly in the earth. We see many occasions in Scripture and in the life we observe where men and women do good and uphold justice. Yet we recognize if there is any justice done it is because God by his common or special grace enables a man or woman to do so. Does this mean we should not expect our leaders whom we elect to uphold justice? No, it is right to expect them to deal justly. Therefore we pray for them that God will enable them, we speak to them from the truth about God and the world he has created and sustains in which he desires justice, and we love mercy and act justly in Christ.
However, our hope and trust is not in a man who we “expect” to act justly for our heaven on earth. While in this passing world our trust, hope, and delight is not in man. For then as a people we are like a shrub in the desert, like a parched land and a waste place (Jer.17:5-6). Our hope, trust and delight must be the Lord. When the heat and drought come to us in the fallen world of fallen men, we flourish like trees planted by streams of water, bearing fruit for God’s glory (Jer.17:7-8). This will be true if our favored candidate is elected or not, or if our expectations are met or not.