April 2005, Volume X,
Upon What Does Your Faith Stand? (3)
Last time we saw three important implications of the truth
that Christ speaking by the Holy Spirit in the preaching of the gospel is the
power of God. Fourth, this truth also establishes the primacy of preaching. It
is not learned debates or rational arguments that create faith. The
Heidelberg Catechism asks, "Since then we are made partakers of Christ and
all his benefits by faith only, whence doth this faith proceed?" It answers,
"From the Holy Ghost, who works faith in our hearts by the preaching of the
gospel, and confirms it by the use of the sacraments" (Q. & A. 65). The apostle
writes "my preaching was ... in demonstration of the Spirit and of power ... the
power of God" (I Cor. 2:4-5). In preaching, God testifies powerfully that in
Christ He reconciled the world unto Himself (II Cor. 5:19) and that believers
have everlasting life (John 3:16).
Fifth, all this establishes the absolute authority and
peerlessness of Scripture. Scripture is not subject to rational proof as if
man’s reasoning could prove it to be God’s Word. To give an example, if Noah’s
ark were found in Turkey, this would not prove the Bible to be true. For how can
a structure of gopher wood be more sure than the very words of God’s Himself?
The Bible cannot be made more certain than it already is. The Spirit Himself
assures us of this as we read and hear the Word. It would indeed be useful if
Noah’s ark was found (though I doubt if it has been preserved for over 4,000
years). It would give the scoffers something to think about. It would be another
instance of the Bible’s accuracy being made manifest in the world. But the
surest ground for faith is the Word itself, witnessed to by the Holy Spirit. God
alone establishes His Word as truth so that "your faith should not stand in the
wisdom of men, but in the power of God" (I Cor. 2:5).
Is your faith standing firm in the power of God? If you are you troubled by
doubts, let me ask you, Are you reading your Bible? If not, you must start
reading it again! Are you attending worship services to listen to faithful
preaching? You must come to hear God’s Word proclaimed! Are you doubting
Scripture and its teaching through the unbelief of others? Then stop
fellowshipping with these people and stop viewing their websites! Is your faith
weakened by your disobedience? Repent and obey! Remember Jesus’ words: "If any
man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or
whether I speak of myself" (John 7:17). In the way of personal and family Bible
study, attendance upon the preaching of the Word, obedience, and rejecting the
whisperings of the "old serpent" (Rev. 20:2), the Christian’s assurance of the
truth of God’s Word grows. And you will need this for your faith will be tested.
Filled With The Spirit
And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be
filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18).
A reader writes, "The Christian is exhorted to be filled with
the Spirit. How is this achieved?" It might be well, before I enter a more
detailed explanation of this text, to bear in mind that some expositors explain
the text as referring to the human spirit: not "Spirit" is meant, but "spirit."
These commentators explain the text to mean that we are to fill our spirits with
something in order to "speak to ourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual
songs ..." If one asks, "With what are we to fill our spirits," their answer is:
"The spiritual virtues mentioned in the last verse of chapter 4: kindness,
tenderheartedness, and a spirit of forgiveness." I prefer the AV’s translation
which makes "Spirit" refer to the Holy Spirit. This interpretation is found in
most conservative expositions of the text, including Calvin’s commentary.
The apostle, writing this letter from prison in Rome, has
turned to the practical part of the letter. Chapters 1-3 have set forth the
great and glorious truth of the blessedness of the church as the body of Christ.
In chapters 4-6, the apostle applies that one theme to the practical life of
those who are members of Christ’s church.
Paul here contrasts being filled with the Spirit with being
drunk with wine. It was customary among the heathen—also in the city of
Ephesus—to drink wine either to seek escape from the sorrows and cares of life,
or for the pleasure that is supposed to come from drunkenness. The very same
reasons explain the prevalent misuse of wine (or alcohol) in modern society.
Paul condemns the drinking of wine by explaining that in it
is "excess," a word which is better translated "lasciviousness." Anyone knows
that excessive drinking destroys a person’s sense of morality, tears down the
restraints that may be present in one’s soul, and opens the door to every vice.
But Scripture, always aware of our sinful natures, reminds us
that chasing a devil out of our lives is ineffective if we do not practice, in a
positive way, the virtues which Scripture requires of us. Thus Jesus warned
against banishing a devil from a house and renovating it completely, only to
leave it empty. The result is that seven worse devils easily enter (Matt.
12:43-45; Luke 11:24-26).
Paul, knowing this important truth, reminds believers that
they are to fill their hearts and minds with the Spirit. Paul refers to the
Spirit as the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Third Person of the
Holy Trinity, as the One whom the Triune God has given to the exalted Christ
(Acts 2:33). In the name of the Triune God, Christ pours out His Spirit on the
church. This happened at Pentecost, and the Spirit of Christ has been with the
church since that glorious day.
The Spirit of Christ brings to the church all the blessings
of salvation as merited by Christ on His cross. The Spirit of the exalted Christ
accomplishes all the purpose of God which He ordained from all eternity. The
Spirit of Christ is the power of the salvation, not only of the elect, but of
the entire creation; for the Spirit works in all the creation to renew and
restore, to save and to glorify (Rom. 8:21-23). In short, God, the sovereign
Lord, accomplishes all His purpose through the exalted Christ and by means of
the Spirit of Christ.
Now, the question is specifically: How are we to be filled
with the Spirit? That is, how is it possible for us to heed the admonition to be
filled with the Spirit?
It is obvious that if the Spirit comes into the hearts of the
elect people of God through Christ’s work of pouring out His Spirit on the
church, we do not, totally lacking the Spirit, reach out to Christ to gain the
Spirit from Him. That is blatant Arminianism which rests the work of salvation
on what we do. The man without the Spirit cannot heed this admonition. He is, in
fact, an enemy of Christ and one who despises the Spirit of Christ.
The apostle is speaking here of seeking escape from all our
afflictions and finding true joy, true happiness in a way other than drinking
wine. He is speaking of the consciousness of the work of the Spirit which
produces in us a true blessedness and peace which leads to a walk in holiness
We are unable to attain this happiness by our own powers or
by the "solutions" offered by our world; we need the Spirit. To acquire the
great blessedness of the Spirit in us we need to go to Christ, cast ourselves
upon Him, seek from Him who is our all-sufficient Saviour the blessedness of the
salvation He has purchased for us. We need to do this by beseeching Him to give
us an ever fuller measure of His Spirit so that we may direct all our lives by
that Spirit (Gal. 5:16-26).
We even need the Spirit in order to seek the Spirit, for we
cannot seek the Spirit of ourselves. We need to be drawn by the Father to come
to Christ, for in Christ alone can we secure the Spirit (John 6:44-45). We need
to understand our own inability and desperate need of the Spirit in order to
seek the Spirit. A sense of this need is itself worked in us by the Spirit.
Being filled with the Spirit, we shall find true happiness, strength for the
sorrows and trials of life, and a holiness pleasing to God rather than the
lasciviousness which drunkenness brings. Let us be filled with the Spirit!
Prof. H. Hanko
Why Did the Lord Choose Judas? (2)
A reader asks, "Why did the Lord choose Judas to be a
disciple if his heart was not right with God?" Having given two reasons last
time, we now turn to a third reason: this was the way in which God would realize
His decree of reprobation with regard to Judas. Judas’ sin and damnation was not
only prophesied in the OT (Ps. 41:9; 55:12-14, 20-21; 109) some thousand years
before his birth, but he was also reprobated by God from before the foundation
of the world. God did not predict Judas’ betrayal of Christ and eternal
perdition because He merely foresaw what Judas would do. Instead, God knows all
things outside of Himself through His eternal decree., in which He predestinated
Judas and his sins and his eternal punishment, and thus He caused inspired
prophecy (such as Ps. 109) to be penned. For God "worketh all things after the
counsel of his own will" (Eph. 1:11), including Judas’ betrayal of Christ (Acts
Did Jesus know Judas’ reprobation? Yes. Jesus referred to
Judas as "the son of perdition" (John 17:12). "Perdition" comes from "perish"
and refers to the everlasting perishing of Hell. Judas was the son of Hell for
he was predestined for Hell; he merited Hell; he was headed to Hell; and he went
to Hell. He was one, as it were, born of Hell and wholly characterized by Hell.
Thus Peter, after quoting Psalm 69:25 and 109:8 of Judas (Acts 1:20), says of
him that Hell was "his own place" (Acts 1:25). Christ knew that Judas, like the
Jews of John 10, was "not of [His] sheep" (26) and that He was not Judas’ "good
shepherd" for He would not die for him (11, 14-15). In His high priestly prayer
in John 17, Jesus did not pray for Judas. He did not pray that God would "keep"
(11-15), "sanctify" (16-19) and glorify (20-26) Judas. As Christ said, "I pray
for them: I pray not for the world [including Judas, ‘the son of perdition;’
12], but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine" (9). And when
did Jesus know of Judas’ reprobation? "Jesus knew from the beginning ... who
should betray him" (John 6:64).
God eternally and unconditionally reprobated Judas in the way
of his sins. This ensures God’s absolute, searing justice, for He did not decree
to condemn an innocent man but a wicked, ungodly sinner. First, Judas was "a
thief" who had seen to it that he was the "treasurer" amongst the disciples in
order to pilfer. He was annoyed that funds were diverted from his hands. Even
lying about caring for the poor was not beneath him if it meant that he could
obtain filthy lucre. Judas cared neither for the poor nor for his Master, for to
him the very costly spikenard of Mary of Bethany or the money it could have
fetched was too good for either of them. Better that the spikenard was sold and
the money entrusted to his "safe" hands. Just read John 12:1-6. Second, Judas
was a traitor who even betrayed God’s Son to death for a paltry 30 pieces of
silver. Here is one who loved cursing (Ps. 109:17-18) and who hated (3) and slew
(16) Christ. Third, Judas was not only a thief and a traitor but also a suicide.
Having killed the spotless Saviour, he wickedly killed himself (Matt. 27:3-10).
Thus Jesus chose Judas as a disciple for this was the way in which God would
realize Judas’ reprobation. Rev. Stewart
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