New year; new classes; new profs; new patterns; new challenges; and new struggles.
A new semester has begun, and with it, a new Bible study series on campus.
This semester, Areopagus is diving into the Heidelberg Catechism, looking at this historic confessional document anew; examining its theology in light of Scripture, and teasing out its ongoing significance and applications to contemporary life.
Our first study looked at Q&A 1-2; the introduction to the catechism and the most beloved question of this document: What is your only comfort in life and in death? And while there is much I could elaborate on, I want to focus in on a singular phrase that stands out to me as I sit in Starbucks reading Paradise Lost: all things must work together for my salvation.
Now, the context of this phrase is a beautiful statement on the providence of God, in which the author of the catechism poetically explains how our Father watches over and cares for His people, doing so in such a way that "not a hair can fall from my head" apart from His willing it to happen. Then comes the phrase I have highlighted: all things must work together for my salvation.
It is a phrase drawing upon Romans 8:28, where Paul writes, "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him," and reminds us of the hope we have in Christ that no matter what happens in life, God orders it in such a way as to bring about our eternal good.
Yet, Satan declares out his fallen estate:
If then his providence
Out of our evil seek to bring forth good,
Our labor must be to pervert that end
And out of good still to find means of evil,
Which oft times may succeed so as perhaps
Shall grieve him. (Book 1, 162-167)
Our adversary, the one who prowls about seeking those whom he may devour, seeks to work evil in the world, to pervert the plans of God, and bring death, destruction, sin and suffering. It began in the Garden, with a temptation and the fall of humanity and all creation. Thinking that he'd struck a mortal blow against the Almighty, Satan must have been filled with delight as the first Adam was expelled from Eden and now bore a marred image of the God who had created him.
Again, the enemy must have cheered with delight at the crucifixion of God's own Son, Jesus Christ. With blood pouring down that wooden instrument of torture, and insults hurled up from the crowds, this scene of injustice was surely another victory--out of good finding means of evil and of grieving God.
Yet, such was not the case:
With reiterated crimes he might
Heap on himself damnation while he sought
Evil to others and, enraged, might see
How all his malice served but to bring forth
Infinite goodness, grace, and mercy shown
On man by him seduced. (Book 1, 214-219)
In the midst of the bitter suffering and death of Christ, victory was being won, not by Satan but by the Lord God. While Satan thought he might bring evil out of good, God's providence could not be thwarted. Through the blood of Christ, the obedience second Adam, the way for fallen humanity (and all creation) to be reconciled to God and restored in His image, was opened. God's people lavished with His goodness, grace, and mercy. Though he looked upon it with glee, the cross declared Satan's defeat and damnation.
And so, returning to the catechism: all things must work together for my salvation. Though sin and suffering, pain and death, trial and tribulation may come, we can be comforted and assured that even these things serve our good--reforming us into His image and causing us to long for the Kingdom to come--because of the providence of our holy, gracious, loving Father in heaven.
This is our God, and this is our hope. Amen.
Join us for our study of the catechism on Tuesdays at 7:00pm in the Memorial Union, room 2213, or on Thursdays at 8:15pm at Trinity Christian Reformed Church (3626 Ontario St.).