• Dr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.

The Creation Ordinances

Since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power & divine nature, are clearly seen, being understood through the things that are made, so that they are without excuse. Romans 1:20


Question 20 of the Larger Catechism asks, “What was the providence of God toward man in the estate in which he was created?” It gives the answer, “The providence of God toward man in the estate in which he was created, was the placing him in paradise, appointing him to dress it, giving him liberty to eat of the fruit of the earth; putting the creatures under his dominion, and ordaining marriage for his help; affording him communion with himself; instituting the Sabbath; entering into a covenant of life with him, upon condition of personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience, of which the tree of life was a pledge; and forbidding to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, upon the pain of death.”


Many of God’s specific acts of providence mentioned in today’s answer are often referred to by theologians as “creation ordinances.” God is the authority behind and the author of all creation ordinances. By definition all of them were imposed by God at the very beginning of creation. Furthermore, all creation ordinances correspond to the way in which God made man and so are for the good and perfection of mankind. They are thus necessary for man to be the creature God purposed him to be. Only in perfectly walking in the creation ordinances can man glorify God and enjoy Him forever. To go against the creation ordinances is to go against the nature of things as God made them. And since God made man with an understanding of these things, as the Scripture above declares, man is “without excuse” when he violates creation ordinances. Not only are such actions transgressions, which God will judge, but they will and must result in man’s harming himself, the world, and human society.


Moreover, the jurisdiction of creation ordinances is over all of man’s life in this world. Thus, the possession of the earth: private property; subduing and having dominion over the earth and all its creatures; working for a living; and one man and one woman joining sexually and having and raising children; marriage and family life are for all people and for as long as this world exists. To what degree these things continue in the next world we cannot know except where Scripture explicitly states. Thus, Jesus said of marriage, “the sons of this age marry and are given in marriage” but after the resurrection in “that age they neither marry nor are given in marriage,” (Luke 20:34-35). What this kind of an abrogation after the consummation means for the nature of human beings and their society and how far it will apply in the other creation ordinances such as the Sabbath and human government, it may not be possible to tell, but one thing is certain: so long as this world remains the creation ordinances are in force here.


Establishing human government as a creation ordinance is by way of implication. Adam being made the head over his wife, coupled with the command to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth, would soon result in a situation where a broader than one-family authority structure would be needed. So also we have glimpses of such an authority structure in the angelic realm where we find archangels (1 Thess. 4:19; Jude 1:9); princes (Dan. 10:13, 21); commanders (Josh. 5:15); armies (Luke 2:13); and legions (Matt. 26:53). Furthermore Jesus implies that some system of human governing authority will continue in the next world when He speaks of those, after the judgment, ruling over a certain number of cities (Luke 19:12-27).

In creation God delegates His authority to His creatures to wield for His glory and their good. God has ordained human government and authority (Rom. 13:1-7), and He has given it the power to create and enforce laws. Yet no human or society of humans has the right to create or impose new creation ordinances or to negate or loosen the ones God has established. Today the governments of the world are engaged in an unprecedented rebellion against God’s creation ordinances, as especially marriage, the need to work, and even maleness and femaleness are being denied. Such a fundamental rebellion against the nature of humanity and the fabric of this world is surely provoking a great judgment from God. May God grant us and the nations of the world repentance from our preposterous rebellion against the creation itself!

A member of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA)

Reformed doctrine. Reverent worship. Real life.

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