Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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April 2003, Volume IX, Issue 12


Unbreakable Scripture (2)

Last time, we heard Jesus quote God in Psalm 82:6: "I said, Ye are gods," and then add that "the scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:34-35). Thus according to the Son of God, the OT declaration, "Ye are gods," cannot be loosened, undone, dissolved, annulled, subverted, done away with or in any way deprived of its authority. Just as surely as God "cannot lie" (Titus 1:2) and a man "cannot see the kingdom of God" except he is born again (John 3:3), so it is absolutely and utterly impossible for this statement to be invalidated: it cannot be broken! And why can it not be broken? Because it is Scripture: "the scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35).

If this Scripture cannot be broken, then no Scripture can be broken. (1) Psalm 82:6: "I said, Ye are gods" is an otherwise obscure portion of the Bible. It is not found in the Decalogue or in a Messianic prophecy or in a popular Psalm. If it were not quoted by Jesus in John 10, we would otherwise have paid little or no attention to it. Yet if this obscure verse cannot be broken, surely no verse can be broken. (2) The words, "I said, Ye are gods," are found in poetic, hymnic material designed to be sung. Someone could argue, "But can you base an argument on a song written by Asaph in glowing lyrical verses?" Yes, we can, for the Son of God did so in John 10 and He said that this Scripture cannot be broken. If poetic material cannot be broken, surely explicit teaching material cannot be broken. (3) Someone could also say that the declaration, "Ye are gods," is a hyperbole, an overstatement. It is true that the judges in Israel were not gods in the sense that they possessed divine attributes or were to be worshipped (cf. Ps. 82:1-8). Rather they were called gods in the sense that God gave them the office of judge to exercise His righteous judgment according to the standard of His Word (John 10:35). So these words, "Ye are gods," when correctly explained, have binding, unbreakable force. Thus other Scriptural statements, especially those in clear and literal language, are unbreakable too. (4) If Psalm 82:6 had read, "Ye are judges," and not "Ye are gods," it wouldn’t have served Christ’s argument. Christ here is teaching us plenary inspiration, namely that God breathes every word of Scripture. This is necessary for Scripture to be inerrant, without any mistakes. If even one word of Scripture was not breathed forth by God, then it could be broken. And if not even one word of Scripture can be subverted or annulled, how much more verses, or chapters or books?

So not just Psalm 82:6 or John 10:35, but all of the Scriptures are unbreakable and inerrant. Why? Because all Scripture is God-breathed and the breathed Word of God is true and omnipotent. This is the confession of true, saving faith. Rev. Stewart

The Mysteries of the Kingdom (5)

And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand (Luke 8:10).

In answer to the question, "Is this election and reprobation, or just acknowledging that some just will not turn and believe (as some commentaries maintain)?" we have explained that Luke 8:10 and its parallel passages in Matthew 13 and Mark 4 do indeed teach election and reprobation.

Augustine (354-430), Gottschalk (c.805-869), all the reformers, the great divines at Dordt and Westminster, and innumerable saints and theologians through the ages have insisted on these doctrines, yet very few in our day of doctrinal indifference and decline accept the truth of election, much less reprobation. And many of those who do believe that there is such a thing as election and reprobation have an erroneous conception of it. These doctrines are almost universally repudiated because these truths—more than any other—teach the absolute sovereignty of God. Thus election and reprobation have been the object of scorn, mockery, misrepresentation, and vicious slander.

Briefly, the doctrine of election means that God, from all eternity, chose unto himself a people in Christ to constitute His church upon whom He would bestow all the blessings of salvation earned in the cross. Election is God’s sovereign good pleasure and in no way based on works; election is of particular individuals, specifically chosen by God; election is the fountain and cause of salvation and all its blessings, including the gift of faith and the spiritual ability to do good works.

Reprobation is the dark side of election, though part of the same decree of God. The following must be said about it.

1) Reprobation is necessarily implied in election, as Calvin already pointed out in a letter he wrote to the other reformers in Switzerland. If God chooses some, he rejects others. The first is election; the second is reprobation.

2) Reprobation is not conditional. That is, reprobation is not on the basis of unbelief. God does not reprobate because some do not believe in Christ. That God reprobated on the ground of unbelief was the position of Calvin’s opponents, chiefly Jerome Bolsec and Castellio. It was the position of the Arminians against whom the Canons of Dordt were written. And it was the position of the Amyrauldians, who have had such great influence in the British Isles.

3) There is a judicial aspect to reprobation. That is, God, in His just and righteous fury against sin, punishes sin with more sin, and ultimately sends the sinner to hell. This is part of what is taught in the text we considered in recent articles. Parables were an instrument of instruction which our Lord used so that the unbelieving in Israel would be hardened in their sin and become ripe for judgment. This is the force, in part, of the quotations of Isaiah 6:9-10. Yet, even though reprobation is manifested in God’s righteous judgment according to which he punishes sin with sin, yet the hardening is the sovereign operation of God, as it was in the case of Pharaoh (Rom. 9:17-18).

4) Reprobation is sovereign. And it is sovereign because behind sin stands a sovereign God. God did not helplessly witness the fall of Adam and Eve in Paradise; He willed it. So it remains with all sin. The classic passages teaching this truth are those describing the awful sin of the crucifixion of Christ: Acts 2:23 and Acts 4:27-28. But God’s sovereign control of sin is carried out in such a way that the sinner always remains a willing sinner, and, therefore, responsible for his sin.

5) Reprobation is God’s decree to reveal Himself as just and righteous through vessels of wrath, fitted by God for everlasting destruction (Rom. 9:22). Thus, reprobation always must be related to the sin of man. However, man’s sin is not the cause of reprobation. Nor is it true that reprobation is the cause of sin, for this would make God the author of sin. The wicked do not go to hell on account of their reprobation, but they suffer everlasting damnation on account of their sins.

Election is indeed the fountain and cause of faith. But reprobation is not the fountain and cause of unbelief.

Reformed and Presbyterian theologians have rightly formulated it this way: God eternally and sovereignly reprobates the wicked to hell in the way of their sin and as just punishment for it.

The issue is, after all, the question of the relation between a sovereign God and man’s accountability for his own sin. God’s will is always carried out. Man’s will to sin is his own choice to sin, an activity of his will. God is just in His anger against sin, and just and righteous in His punishment of the sinner.

6) Finally, in God’s all-wise purpose, the reprobate in the world serve the elect. They serve the building of the temple of the church as scaffolding serves the erection of a cathedral. They serve the grains of wheat gathered into God’s granary as straw and chaff serve the growing crop. They are the stem, the husks, the cobs, the tassels of the corn plant, necessary for a time, but destroyed when the corn is ripe and harvested.

The believer can never show one ounce of pride when he considers all this, for he is elect only by God’s sovereign choice and eternal good pleasure. There is never any room for boasting. God receives all the glory, always! He is sovereign. He does as it pleases Him. It is for us only to bow in worship and adoration. Prof. H. Hanko

Is Universal Atonement True? (6)

(15) Let us consider an argument from Romans 8 against a death of Christ for all men head for head. Romans 8:28-30 speaks of a people whom God foreknew, predestinated, called according to his purpose, justified, glorified and conformed to the image of His Son. The apostle draws the following conclusion: "What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?" (31). "Then" or "therefore" indicates that this is a logical inference based on his preceding statements, here called "these things." The "us" can only be those predestinated (or elected) and called according to God’s eternal purpose (28-30). Thus Paul’s argument is this: if God is "for us" (31) in predestination, calling, justification and glorification (29-30), then "who can be against us?" (31). Or to expand on this: if God in His eternal decree has chosen us to everlasting bliss, called us out of darkness into His marvellous light, acquitted us of all our sins and reckoned us righteous with the very righteousness of Christ Himself, and glorified us in conforming us to the image of His Son, then "who can be against us?" (31).

The apostle reinforces this already compelling argument with another: "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" (32). Who are the "us" referred to twice here for whom God sent His Son to die? Again, they are those predestinated and called according to God’s eternal purpose (28-30). The only conclusion is that Christ died for the elect.

If it is objected that Christ also died for the non-elect, then we reply that the passage gives absolutely no hint of this. In fact, this would make the passage teach that God sent His Son to die for those who are not predestinated and not called, justified, glorified or conformed to Christ. Moreover, if it is argued that Christ died for the reprobate, this would make the passage teach that the reprobate will receive all the blessings of His cross. For verse 32 teaches that God freely gives all things to those for whom Christ died. The "all things" include freedom from the law of sin and death (2), life and peace (6), adoption as God’s sons (14), the witness of the Spirit (16), an eternal inheritance (17), the redemption of the body (23), the ability to pray in the Spirit (26), etc. Furthermore, the "all things" would also include the blessings of justification, calling, glorification and conformity to Christ (29-30) according to God’s eternal predestination! Thus the view that Jesus died for the reprobate read into Romans 8:32 would mean that God freely gives the blessings of justification, calling and glorification to the reprobate, those whom He never calls, justifies or glorifies. This verse teaches an absolutely inseparable connection between those for whom Christ died and spiritual blessings. Some do not receive these blessings. Therefore Jesus did not die for them.

The passage proceeds to say that no charge (33) and no condemnation (34) can be laid against those who are justified (33), those for whom Christ died (34). But many charges are righteously made by the God of heaven against the reprobate wicked so that they are condemned! This is the case because they are not justified (33) for Christ did not die for them and does not intercede for them (34).Rev. Stewart

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