The Proper Use Of God’s World
Sermon delivered in Trinity Protestant Reformed Church on
May 29, 2010
"…which God hath created to be received with
thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For
every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if
it be received with thanksgiving." I Timothy 4:3b, 4.
The letter in which the text is found was the first of
two letters Paul sent to Timothy. Timothy was Paul’s
spiritual son and minister of the church of Christ in
Ephesus. While Paul instructs Timothy concerning many duties
and obligations that are Timothy’s as a minister of the
gospel, in the context of the text Paul takes the time to
warn Timothy of grave dangers that arise "in the latter
times" (I Tim. 4:1). These latter times are the years of the
new dispensation between the ascension of Christ and his
return on the clouds of heaven.
Many would depart from the faith and establish apostate
churches where "doctrines of devils" are taught (verse 1).
Among these doctrines of devils was the teaching that God’s
gifts, such as marriage and eating meat are evil. Avoiding
these things, as well as other things in God’s world, is, so
they say, true religion (verse 3).
Paul damns such teaching and ascribes it to "seducing
spirits" (verse 1). In the text Paul’s reason for calling
this teaching a "doctrine of devils" is explained. The chief
reason why this teaching of abstinence from God’s world is
so wrong is that it considers God’s creation as corrupt and
therefore to be avoided. It speaks of the creation that God
made and still upholds by his providence as an evil
creation. And it denies the salvation and full redemption of
the creation in the cross of Christ.
The child of God is urged, even commanded, to make use of
God’s world, although the things in it must be received with
thanksgiving and sanctified by God’s word and by prayer.
Contrary Views of Our Use of God’s World
The history of the new dispensational church has been
characterized by a struggle between two contradictory
positions. The one is the sin of worldliness and materialism
in which the Christian is free to plunge headlong into the
creation, accumulate as many of this world’s possessions as
he is able and use them to satisfy his own pursuit of
pleasure. In our affluent times such a use of God’s world is
our greatest evil and is a danger that imperils the soul.
Earthly possessions become our idols.
The danger present in this view of the world is that we
think that what we acquire is really ours to do with as we
please, and thus we make the accumulation of earthly
possessions and the pleasures they afford our goals in life. Wicked
"prosperity gospelers" even promote the idea that true
religion is to become rich, successful in terms of this
world, and to live lives in which our carnal desires are
satisfied to the full. Such a view is repeatedly condemned
The other position that has repeatedly appeared in the
history of the church is the position of world-flight. Those
who hold to this position consider this world to be, in
itself, sinful and corrupt. It is dirty, and any contact
with it makes one dirty as well. It must be avoided as much
as possible. This position is the one practiced by Roman
Catholicism for millennia and is still a part of Rome’s
teachings. For one to practice celibacy and live in poverty
is to live on a higher plain of holiness than one who must
descend into the creation in his daily life. It is also a
view of some branches of the Amish who will not use modern
inventions, TVs, computers, automobiles, etc. These things,
some fear, carry with them a power to stain the soul.
Both these positions stand under the condemnation of
Scripture. They are serious dangers for the child of God and
must be rejected. Especially the latter position is
condemned by the apostle in the context of the text. It is a
kind of blasphemy of God himself, for, although God created
all things, and continues to uphold them, these good
creatures are said to be morally evil and spiritually
The Hopelessness of Man’s Life in God’s World
When God finished his work of creation he pronounced it
"good" (Gen. 1:31). God created man as the head of the
creation, under God, with the calling to use the whole
creation in God’s service and to God’s glory.
But everything changed. By sinning as the head of the
creation, Adam brought God’s curse on himself the creation
and all in it.
Now the curse is a powerful word of God. It is the word
of God’s anger; it is a word that has the power to destroy;
when spoken it drives that which is cursed away from God
into destruction. The curse rests not only on man, but also
on the creation itself and, consequently, on man’s use of
the creation (Gen. 3:17-19).
Man remains the head of the creation, even though he is
now a rebel in God’s house. But he is now under the curse
along with the creation over which he still rules. All that
man does as the head of the creation is cursed (Prov. 3:33).
He was instructed to subdue the creation, but, although he
is still able to perform this work, it is all a cursed
thing. There is no benefit in it, no profit from it, no
value to what man does. Upon the whole creation and upon man
who lives in it comes God’s pronouncement through Solomon:
Vanity of vanities, vanity of vanities; all is vanity (Eccl.
1:2). Everything man touches he makes morally dirty, because
he uses sit in the service of sin.
So true is this curse of God upon man and upon the
creation that it is all destined by God to be destroyed. Not
only man himself will be destroyed, but the creation also
will be burned with fire and all that is in it will be
consumed in the final conflagration. Jesus even speaks not
only of the destruction of man himself, but also all that
man does and all he has made from God’s world, from its
skyscrapers to its medicines II Peter 3:10). Nothing is
left, and nothing survives the destruction of the old
creation, for no value is to be found in all this sad world.
Hospitals, asylums, treasures of gold and silver, palaces
and vacation homes, libraries and ancient writings, all the
stored up knowledge of mankind along with his poetry and
art, scientific achievements and advances in medicine—all
are destined to be burned in the fire of God’s curse. It is
vanity for men under the curse.
This teaching of Scripture seems to validate the idea
that one ought to flee the world to attain holiness. God is
so disgusted with his world because of what men do to it
that he is determined to destroy it. Better it is then to
flee from it if God takes such a view of his world.
But man cannot attain to any holiness by turning his back
on God’s world and pulling up his nose in disgust.
God’s Purpose in the Creation
God did not make a mistake in creating the universe; nor
did man succeed in spoiling God’s purpose and force him to
alter his plan. Scripture teaches that God’s purpose went
far beyond what was revealed in Paradise. God’s purpose was
to glorify himself in Christ, God’s eternal Son. God’s
purpose from the beginning of time was to glorify himself
through a creation and a people redeemed by Christ, saved by
the power of his cross, and made far more glorious than the
first creation could ever be. Christ was destined to be the
head of the true human race, the elect of God, the world God
eternally loved, those saved through the power of the
atoning sacrifice Christ made on the cross. As the second
Adam (Rom. 5:14), Christ was also destined to be the head of
all things God made in heaven and on earth (Col. 1:20) and
redeemed from the power of the curse by the work of
redemption performed at Calvary.
This creation is not abandoned by God. It is still God’s
world, which he loves. It is upheld by his providence, not
uselessly and without purpose, but because God has better
things in store for it (Rom. 8:19-23). Its present state is
not indefinite. The curse is not to last forever. God’s
driving from himself that which is accursed is temporary, a
step in the right direction when viewed from God’s
perspective; a move in the better way of redemption in
Christ. God is in heaven, and all is well in this world—not in itself, but because of God’s purpose with it.
God’s people are not, therefore, to rush headlong into
this present world under the curse in order to consort with
evil men also under the curse. Nor may they bend every
effort to remove the curse to make this world curse free,
for the curse is God’s Word, and no one can stop God’s Word
from accomplishing that for which God speaks it. Nor are
they to get as far away from the world as they are able,
fearful lest touching the creation contaminate them.
They are not to make poverty an end in itself and
practice celibacy as a desirable goal that raises one to a
higher level of holiness. They are not to scorn automobiles,
refuse to live in houses and to decorate them with works of
art. They are not to disdain that which God upholds, for
that is a doctrine of devils.
The Christian’s View of This Creation
The text teaches us that, in spite of the curse, "every
creature of God is good" (verse 3). It is good in itself.
The defilement is to be found in man’s sinful use of it,
because God created it and still upholds it. How can it be
that the cursed creation is still "good"? This can be only
because the creation belongs to God and God’s purpose with
the creation is not accomplished in this sin-cursed world.
The creation is redeemed by Christ’s death and destined for
greater glory than it now has.
If the creation itself is good, that is, apart from the
curse upon it, then all that is made from it as the earth is
subdued by man is also good in itself. TV is good, though
the use man puts it to is evil. Medicine is good, but the
use of it in abortions is sinful. Telephones are good, but
when man uses them, along with cell phones, to sin, they are
evil. Even music and art are good, but man corrupts these
with hellish music, wicked lyrics and senseless smears of
colour called art. It is not God’s creature in which sin is
to be found; it is man’s use of God’s creation.
The text itself indicates that the truth is even worse
than God’s curse on it, for an evil use of the creation has
the power to corrupt the things made of the creation. God’s
world, verse 5 says, must be sanctified. That is, God’s
world must be made holy—which is the meaning of the verb
"to sanctify." And that which has been made corrupt by
reason of sinful uses to which it is put must undergo
sanctification. In fact, the text emphatically states that
every creature of God is good—if
it is received with thanksgiving and
sanctified. Only then, when it is sanctified, is it good.
All the emphasis falls on the little word "if".
We find a clear example of this in the history of the
destruction of Jericho by the nation of Israel when it
entered the land of Canaan. As God was giving instructions
to Israel concerning the conquest of Jericho, he said, "And
the city shall be accursed, even it, and all that are
therein, to the Lord ... And ye, in any wise keep yourselves
from the accursed thing, lest ye make yourselves accursed,
when ye take of the accursed thing, and make the camp of
Israel a curse, and trouble it. But all the silver, and
gold, and vessels of brass and iron, are consecrated unto
the Lord: they shall come into the treasury of the Lord
The interesting part of this passage is that the word
correctly translated "accursed" can also be translated
"devoted" or "consecrated." This then is the point the Lord
is making to Israel. All of Jericho with all its people and
possessions are accursed (except for Rahab and her
household). They are accursed because an accursed people
took God’s creation and used it to make idols, which they
worshiped; or they used God’s creatures in prostitution and
the pursuit of evil pleasure. It had, therefore, to be
burned. To refuse to burn Jericho and all in it and to keep some of the things for one’s self would not only be
disobedience, but would bring that which was accursed into
the camp of Israel so that the cursed thing in the camp
would bring the curse of God on all the camp—as happened
with Achan’s sin.
But what was rescued from the curse and did not carry
with it the curse, was the gold, silver, brass and iron—but only if it was put in the Lord’s treasury. That is, it
was free from the curse because it was devoted or
consecrated to God and was, in fact, used later in Israel’s
history to build the temple of Solomon. The same thing was
both accursed and devoted. But the curse was taken away when
it was devoted to God.
God’s Creatures are Good to Believers
Only believers are able to take that which is accursed
and sanctify it. All creatures of God are good, but they are
good only to those "which believe and know the truth" (verse
God’s people are described in the text as believers and
those who know the truth. That is, these people of God know
the truth as it is revealed in the Holy Scriptures and
believe what Scripture says.
While in a very general way, God’s people know and
believe all that the Scriptures teach, in this context the
knowledge which the believer has is limited by the main
thought of the text. That which Scripture teaches and the
elect believe is first of all that God created the heavens
and the earth by the Word of his mouth in six days of
twenty-four hours. To hold to evolutionism, therefore, will
never enable a man to make proper use of God’s world, nor
will he be able to sanctify the creatures of God’s world
with prayer and the Word of God, but is cursed with the
Other such doctrines include the fall of man and his
total depravity, which makes it impossible for him to used
God’s world to God’s glory. But also all Arminianism makes
using God’s creation aright impossible for it gives part of
the responsibility of salvation to man who is able to do
nothing good. Man’s misuse of the creation in the service of
Satan and his own carnal pleasure is also condemned by the
Because the creation is God’s world and always belongs
only to him, man is a steward in God’s house, obligated to
use what is God’s in God’s service.
This creation is doomed to be burned with fire so that
from the ashes of this cursed creation God may form a new
heavens and a new earth free from sin and the curse. This
new creation, formed at the return of our Lord, is the goal,
the destination of all God’s people. For they shall inherit
it as the crowning gift of God’s grace.
The believer knows all these things and believes them in
such a way that he puts them into practice in his daily
life. He is convinced that this world is not his home, but
that his home is his Father’s house of many mansions. He looks at the
present form of God’s creatures as passing and looks forward
to the day when God’s purpose in the redemption of all
things will take place. The creation itself will be made
blessed, free from the curse, fully revealing the glory of
the God who formed it, and the believer will live in it
without sin, made like unto the glorious body of the Christ
who saved him.
To these believers God’s creatures are good. To those who
do not know and believe the Scriptures, God’s creatures are
a curse, for the curse of the Lord is in the house of the
wicked (Prov. 3:33).
How Believers are to Receive Them
Because all the creatures of God’s world are good, it is
right and proper that the believer possess them. It is not
sinful to be rich; to have a large bank account; to have
profitable investments. Not in themselves are these things
bad. They constitute a grave spiritual danger, as Paul
points out in I Timothy 6:9-11: "For they that will be rich
fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and
hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while
some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and
pierced themselves through with many sorrows." But the
danger lies not in the riches, but in the sinful and
covetous heart of man.
Whatever God may be pleased to give us, we must remember
that these gifts are good. They are gifts from God. They are
his Fatherly care of us. We may, it is true, pray only for
our daily bread; but our heavenly Father daily loads us with
benefits and gives us far more besides. When he is pleased
to do this, we must receive them at his hand. God gives us
many good gifts from his creation; to turn our backs on them
is wrong. Our homes and cars, our clothing and food, our
furnishings, our cell phones, all these and all the rest of
the things God gives us are good gifts.
Even then we must remember that many of our fellow
saints, with whom we shall live in heaven, struggle even to
find their daily bread. But to say that we are blessed
beyond them in their poverty is to make mockery of God’s
sovereign disposition of all that is his. He gives to each
what is pleasing to him and his distribution of his gifts
may not be criticized.
But there is an important qualification. All these gifts
of God must be received "with thanksgiving" (verse 4). To
receive them with thanksgiving means a number of things, for
when we are thankful to God for his gifts, we acknowledge
that he is alone the Giver. We have not acquired these gifts
by our own efforts and hard work, nor have we received them
because we have merited them with God. God is the
overflowing fountain of all gifts. He is always full, we are
always empty. We can bring nothing to him that is not
already his., for the cattle on a thousand hills belong to
him. All we can do is seek, with outstretched hands, his
gifts, which come out of the fountain of his unmerited
favour. And to be content with such things as we have (Heb.
Thus, to receive these gifts as good is to acknowledge
humbly God’s grace towards us in Jesus Christ.
Sanctifying God’s Gifts
Because this creation is under the curse and doomed to
destruction, the things of the creation must be sanctified—as Jericho’s treasures of gold and silver were sanctified by
devoting them to the Lord’s treasury.
This passage has been the basis for the custom of
beginning and ending mealtimes in Christian homes with Bible
reading and prayer. Indeed this is why the Lord himself
sought God’s blessing before he fed the 5000 with five
loaves and two fishes (John 6:11).
We sanctify these gifts when we enjoy them. We do not
make use of them with a certain distaste for them apparent on
our faces. We do not consider them necessary evils. We do
not treat them disdainfully as mere creatures, nor in our
efforts to impress people with our heavenly-mindedness do we
leave the impression with others that we would rather do
To be sanctified means that these creatures that God has
made and are given to men are good and to be used for our
enjoyment as tokens of God’s favour and love.
This sanctification takes place by the Word of God and by
prayer because God’s Word explains the true nature of all
things which God has made and our relation to these gifts.
We are instructed in how to use them and why they are given
to us. This sanctification also requires prayer. Through
prayer we know that God is good and gracious to us and we
express our own desire to use these gifts in a way pleasing
And so they are good gifts of God to us while we are here
in the world, but on our way to heaven. In a certain sense
of the word, we must and do "sit loose" to all these gifts.
They are passing and will soon be burned. They will not
escape the final judgment of God upon a wicked world that
uses God’s gifts to sin against him. The Lord gives them,
but the Lord also takes them away. We receive marriage as
his gift and enjoy it, but do not despair when our spouse is
taken from us. We eat the food God gives and enjoy our homes
and cars, but we do not miss them when they are taken away.
We thank God for enough to feed our children and give to the
poor, but we know that God always takes care of all the
needs of his people, and to lose these things is no
disaster, but for our good.
In this verse is also Scripture’s answer to the
environmentalism’s claims. Their determination to save the
world is based on evolutionary ideas of this world going on
forever. The believer looks forward to its destruction. The
world in its present form is soon to pass away to make room
for a more wonderful world where the curse will forever be
Yet, this is God’s world and to be received with
thanksgiving and sanctified. The believer has nothing but
respect and love for the creation. It serves a good purpose
now, for it enables the believer to walk his way to glory
and fulfil the purpose of God in it. He does not abuse it,
mutilate it, rape it for his own carnal pleasure. He enjoys
it, revels in its beauty, uses it to glorify God and looks
forward to its renewal and glorification.
Thus, when God gives us his good gifts, we are called to
use them in our pilgrim’s way to lighten the load of the
journey, and to walk more easily our pilgrim’s path until we
reach our everlasting destination. They are means to an end,
not ends in themselves. They are to be used for heavenly
purposes and spiritual good, and not as tools to indulge in
the pleasures of life. They are for a time, for presently we
shall inherit the everlasting kingdom of Christ in a
Such is our calling.