Belief of our Fathers: Humanity (Chapter 7)
November 1, 2019
This continues a study on the beliefs of our forefathers, based largely on the 1632 Dordrecht Confession of Faith. This section tells about Ecclesiology, or the study of the Church. This has been edited for space.
To read other chapters in this series on the Beliefs of our Forefathers, click below:
And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (Genesis 2:7)
Where did we come from? Why are we here? What is the purpose of life? These questions have occupied the minds of all human beings throughout history. An elderly man once said to me, “See all these books I have?” Bookshelves filled one whole wall of the room from floor to ceiling. He owned books on every religion, books about man’s view of life, and books from men who have travelled the world. He said, “I have read every one of these books, searching for the purpose of life, yet I have not found it.”
One book in the center of all the others was the Bible—the Holy Scriptures, written by the Creator of the world. When I asked him, the man confessed that he had not yet read that book.
How astonishing! It was the only book on his shelves that held the answers he looked for, but he had no interest in what the all-knowing God had to say.
Our Anabaptist ancestors were interested in going to the Source of life for their answers. They were willing to die for reading and studying a Book forbidden to the common man by the state church for fear that they might find the truth that contradicted church tradition. They might not have understood the Bible well because it was new to them, but they studied it fervently and understood who they were and what their purpose was on earth.
What the Anabaptists Teach
Article 1 of the Dordrecht Confession of Faith:
“Of this same one God, who worketh all in all, we believe and confess that He is the Creator of all things visible and invisible, who in six days created, made, and prepared heaven and earth and sea and all that in them is; and that He still governs and upholds the same and all His works through His wisdom, might, and the word of His power.
“And when He had finished His works, and had ordained and prepared them, each in its nature and properties, good and upright, according to His pleasure, He created the first man, the father of us all, Adam; whom He formed of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, so that he became a living soul, created by God in His own image and likeness, in righteousness and holiness, unto eternal life. He regarded him above all other creatures, endowed him with many high and glorious gifts, placed him in the pleasure garden or Paradise, and gave him a command and prohibition; afterwards He took a rib from Adam, made a woman therefrom, and brought her to him, joining and giving her to him for a helpmate, companion, and wife; and in consequence of this He also caused, that from this first man Adam, all men that dwell upon the whole earth have descended.
On marriage: “We confess that there is in the church of God an honorable state of matrimony, of two free, believing persons, in accordance with the manner after which God originally ordained the same in Paradise, and instituted it Himself with Adam and Eve, and that the Lord Christ did away and set aside all the abuses of marriage which had meanwhile crept in, and referred all to the original order, and thus left it.
“In this manner the Apostle Paul also taught and permitted matrimony in the church, and left it free for every one to be married, according to the original order, in the Lord, to whomsoever one may get to consent. By these words, in the Lord, there is to be understood, we think, that even as the patriarchs had to marry among their kindred or generation, so the believers of the New Testament have likewise no other liberty than to marry among the chosen generation and spiritual kindred of Christ, namely, such, and no others, who have previously become united with the church as one heart and soul, have received one baptism, and stand in one communion, faith, doctrine and practice, before they may unite with one another by marriage. Such are then joined by God in His church according to the original order; and this is called, marrying in the Lord.”
What the Scriptures Teach
In the beginning God created the heaven and earth (Genesis 1:1). Since God was the only one present at the beginning of time, He is the only one able to tell us who we are, where we came from, and why we are here. Scripture tells us that God created the heaven and earth for His own pleasure (Revelation 4:11). He formed the earth to be inhabited by His special creation, the children of men (Isaiah 45:18; Psalm 115:16). He gave man dominion over the earth as a steward, to care for and to have authority over it (Genesis 1:26).
God fashioned Adam and Eve differently from the rest of His creation. He made man a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour (Psalm 8:5). They were lower because they had bodies like the animals of flesh and blood, covered in skin; but they were higher than the animals, because they were made in His likeness. God created man in his own image . . . ; male and female created he them (Genesis 1:27). God is spirit and has no physical body (John 4:24). God’s spiritual image speaks of Adam and Eve’s inner self. He made them moral, spiritual beings housed in a physical body. They were a reflection of God Himself. That does not imply that they were God. A reflection is never the real thing.
Even the most intelligent animals do not have an ability to communicate with God, nor do they make choices based on God’s moral code. All flesh is not the same flesh (1 Corinthians 15:39). Animals are programmed by God to do what they do by instinct. On the other hand, mankind was made with a mind that can communicate and reason with God and grasp His spiritual views. Mankind has emotions in order to feel all the pleasures God intended for them. They also have a will with which they can choose to love God and each other, to obey God, and to treat each other with respect. Scripture reveals that mankind was made to have a relationship with their Creator and with each other as indicated in Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:16–19:
That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height. And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
God intended to enjoy mankind’s fellowship and permit them to enjoy His. They were chosen above all God’s creation to model the character of God with their ability to glorify God by thinking purely, loving purely, and choosing purely—a physical, visible representation of the invisible God. This is man’s highest purpose on earth. This is what Jesus modelled for us when He came to earth for those short thirty-three years.
God’s original purpose for man to occupy, dominate, and enjoy God’s Paradise also included marriage between a man and a woman. Genesis 2:18 indicates that man needed someone with whom he could communicate, love, make choices, and worship God: And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.
The animals were not adequate to fill this role as helper, so God created from Adam a special help meet, one made from his own body in the image of God. The Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man (Genesis 2:21–22). Eve was made physically different from Adam in order to multiply the human race. She was to be Adam’s wife and the mother of all mankind, equally sharing the image of God, but in a different role. God commanded that man should leave his father and his mother, and cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh (Genesis 2:24). He also commanded them to be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it (Genesis 1:28).
God’s desire for marriage has been corrupted. Everything from divorce and remarriage and homosexuality to bitterness and resentment and lack of communication and love have all been enemies of God’s intention for marriage.
Because marriage has been corrupted by sin, God gave us many instructions in the New Testament on how to have the wonderful, agreeable union He planned for man and woman.
But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. (1 Corinthians 11:3)
Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify [set apart] and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. (Ephesians 5:21–28)
Just as Christ wants His bride, the Church, to be without blemish, a husband is to spend time with his wife, teaching her from Scripture and praying with her. By doing this, he can help her become a better wife. The husband is the priest of his home. He has a God-given responsibility to study and teach his family the Word of God. We see in 1 Peter 3:1–7 God’s instructions to spouses of disobedient or unbelieving husbands and wives:
Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.
For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.
Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.
God meant marriage to be a picture of His own relationship to the Church. Christ is the faithful, loving husband who protects His wife, the weaker vessel, from the wiles of Satan and leads her into godliness in order to present her spotless before His Father. He gives His life for the Church. The Church is the wife who helps her husband with his goals and plans, building him up with praise and giving him his rightful place as head of the home. She uses all her God-given gifts and talents to meet the needs of her husband and home.
Obviously, God’s plan for marriage cannot work unless the husband and the wife are rightly related to their Creator—born again in the Holy Spirit. A marriage between a believer of the gospel and an unbeliever can cause chaos, because they are enemies in the Lord. Marriage is the merging of two bodies into one, just as God joins all believers of the gospel into one body with Christ. A body can never have two heads, because it wouldn’t know which to follow. So God chose man to be the head because Eve was deceived and Adam was not, just as Christ is head of the man and the Church (1 Corinthians 11:3). A man cannot lead his wife into godliness unless he has first been cleansed by the blood of Christ.
Submission is about respecting each other in humility and love, and it begins with our submission to God, who owns, loves, and cares for us. Ephesians 5:21 instructs all believers to submit to each other in the fear of God, which leads us to wisdom. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding (Proverbs 9:10).
Men and women are different. They need to accept these differences, because God displays a different side of Himself through each of them. In general, men display the leader/protector side of God. They tend to think first and feel later. Women are likely to display the compassionate side of God. They tend to feel first and think later. Men and women were not made to be the same, although God says in Galatians that they are equal in His sight. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28). In our relationship with Jesus, we are spiritually equal. We are equally responsible to put our faith in the blood of Christ and study His Word. We equally receive blessing for our obedience and chastisement for our disobedience. God uses us equally in His kingdom, but in different roles. Someone once said that men and women are like chocolate and nuts. They are good alone, but even better when together.
God’s original plan for mankind was altered by the choices Adam and Eve made. Eve was deceived when she stepped out from under Adam’s God-given headship. She was not made to take ultimate responsibility. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression (1 Tim. 2:13–14). On the other hand, Adam stepped out of his leadership role of protecting his wife by following her into disobedience. He actually led her to sin by not leading her away from it.
Christ, the second Adam, is our only hope for restoring God’s order. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive (1 Corinthians 15:21–22). It is impossible for men or women to do what God intended them to do without the Holy Spirit dwelling in them.
Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed. (Psalm 127:3–5)
As in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14–30, parents are made stewards of the children God has gifted to them, and they will be judged on how much they invest in their children’s lives. If raised in a godly manner, children will bring much joy and blessing to their parents (Proverbs 20:7; 31:28).
We are admonished to be like children when it comes to faith in Christ, because children are very trusting and want to please their parents. They can be led to Christ at an early age because of their trusting confidence in adults. They can just as easily be led into evil for the same reason. Fathers: take advantage of the time you have with your young children to promote a desire for godliness in them. My father faithfully read and explained the Bible to us and prayed for us every day he was able, and on the days he couldn’t, my mother would read to us. By God’s grace, it is possible to raise God-loving children.
Despite their perceived innocence, children are born in sin with Adam’s nature. Even before they can speak, they show their defiance, and “no” seems to be their first word. While we must have much patience and grace for our children, we ought to start teaching them from the time they’re born. As Paul said to Timothy: Continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 3:14–15).
Children are commanded to obey their parents, and this is the first commandment that has a blessing attached to it. This makes sense, because obedience extends your life by keeping you from danger and sin, which could shorten your life. Once we are out of the home, God expects us to never stop honoring our parents with love and respect.
Children are great imitators. They copy everything their parents do. So you see, you can determine whether you want loving children who openly share their thoughts with you, or harsh, angry children who distance themselves from you. Act out what you want your children to be, and they will copy you. That’s why God has said, Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). Making unreasonable and inconsistent demands on your children will only frustrate them, which results in bitterness and anger. I wonder if some parents put more care and effort into raising their crops than they do in raising their children. Do we want to raise a crop of undesirable children?
Husbands and wives, I admonish you to prayerfully decide what kind of children you want to raise, and then go to the Bible to find out how to do it. Over and over, you will find that love and kindness is the answer. Usually, how a husband treats his wife is how his sons will treat women, and how the wife treats her husband is how the daughter will treat men.
God’s purpose for mankind is still to bear His image—through our own lives, through our relationships with our spouses, and through our relationships with our children. Because of sin, we do need restraints—God-given restraints. Parents restrain children from acting out their sinful nature in the home, and teachers restrain children from acting out their sinful nature in the school. We were all born with a conscience as our inner restraint, which needs to be developed as we grow older. We have God-ordained civil law or government to control our sinfulness in the social world, and we have the local church as our spiritual restraint. The first and foremost restraint, though, is the Holy Spirit, who works through our conscience. Are you listening to Him?
Father in heaven, help us be the mirrors You intend us to be, showing forth Your glory and grace to all those around us. May we always be open for Your empowering Spirit to fill us and work through us, for our corrupted flesh could never reflect Your goodness. Change our thoughts to bring about Your will. Change our actions to show people who You are, and use our mouths to preach Your gospel. Give us the grace to love our spouses and children as You do and to train them to love You. May our lives bring glory to the name of Jesus Christ in our homes, our schools, our churches, and in public. In the name of Jesus we ask this. Amen.
To read other chapters in this series on the Beliefs of our Forefathers, click below:
Chapter Seven: Humanity
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