August 2002, Volume IX,
The Origin of Scripture (1)
In the last News we saw that Scripture is the "more sure
word" (II Peter 1:16-19). The Word is sure because its origin is not in man but
in God: "the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of
God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (21).
"Prophecy" (19, 20, 21) not only includes the Old Testament
(OT) writing prophets, such as Hosea, but it also refers to the whole of the OT
from the perspective of its predictions. From the mother promise of Genesis
3:15, we see that all of the OT points ahead to Christ and His universal church.
For example, the law predicts Christ as the great king (Num. 24:17) and the
Psalms prophesy His rule over the nations (22:27-31) and return to judge the
world (50:1ff.). Thus Peter is telling us that the whole of the OT (from the
perspective of its predictions) "came not in old time by the will of man: but
holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (II Peter 1:21).
Let us be clear about it: man is not the originator of
Scripture (OT or NT). Man did not determine what was said, nor how it was said,
nor with what words it was said, "For the prophecy came not in old time by the
will of man" (21). Do you believe this? You must, for this is a first principle
in understanding the Scriptures: "Knowing this first, that ... the prophecy came
not in old time by the will of man" (21). Without this as the key you will never
truly grasp the Bible or know the Saviour revealed in its pages.
Higher critics reject this first principle for understanding
the Bible. They hold that the origin of the Bible is in man (though God maybe
helped a bit). They challenge the date of the OT books especially the prophetic
books which they date after the event prophesied. They deny predictive prophecy
because of their prior commitment to naturalism. Whereas Peter writes, "the
prophecy came not in old time by the will of man" (21), they say, "The Hebrew
books came by the will of man often a lot later than they purport." They hold
that the Bible consists of "cunningly devised fables" (16).
Since the Bible did not originate in man’s will, it is
different from every other writing. It is different from newspapers and
magazines, from school textbooks and novels. It is different even from books
written by Christians. All man’s books are written according to God’s providence
but the Bible alone is written by divine inspiration. Buddhism’s Dhammapada,
Bhagavad-Gita and Confucius’ Annalects (which do not claim to
come by divine inspiration) and Islam’s Koran (which does) all come from
the will of man. Thus the Bible alone is God’s hammer. Rev. Stewart
Seeking the Unity of the Church (4)
I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye
walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and
meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to
keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:1-3).
In the last three issues of the News, we noted the following
ideas expressed in this text: 1) In various ways, the Holy Spirit has made this
admonition an extremely urgent one, one, therefore, to which we ought to give
our careful attention. 2) The unity of the church is on the foreground here,
that is, the unity of the church as it is manifested in the world in the local
congregation and denomination. 3) This unity is not the false unity of modern
ecumenism which seeks a unity on the lowest doctrinal level; it is a unity in
Christ the Head of the church, and is, therefore, a unity of the mind of Christ
and the will of Christ. 4) This unity is further defined in the text by pointing
out that it is characterized by love and peace. 5) We do not create this unity;
it is created by the Holy Spirit of Christ who works in the hearts of all the
elect and who makes the church one in Christ as He leads into all truth and
enables the saints to perform the will of Christ. Unity is therefore a gift
which is given to us, a gift more precious than silver and gold. Our calling is
to "keep the unity of the Spirit."
The calling we have to keep the unity of the Spirit involves
several spiritual virtues. We are, says the apostle, to keep this unity "with
all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another."
These virtues are crucial. Without them it is impossible to
keep the unity of the church. It is essential that we understand this, for these
virtues to which the apostle calls attention are contrary to our natural
inclinations and selfish tendencies to seek and exalt ourselves and to promote
our own well-being as much as possible.
To seek the unity of the Spirit as manifested in the church
requires of us that we recognize that the church is the most important
institution in our lives, and that, therefore, it ought to be the very centre of
our entire life in the world. The church is, to use a figure common among the
Reformers, our mother. She gives us our spiritual birth into the family of God.
She nourishes us, as infants and children, at her breasts, giving to us such
food as is essential to our growth. She cares for us throughout all the days of
our earthly pilgrimage, keeping watch over us, disciplining us when we stray,
comforting us in our sorrows, strengthening us in our weaknesses, assuring us
repeatedly that the end of our sojourn will bring us to the house of our
heavenly Father. Without our spiritual mother we would never be able to make the
spiritual journey of this life to heaven.
We are seeking the welfare of our own spiritual mother when
we keep the unity of the Spirit revealed in the church. How foolish it is to
disparage our own mother. How bent on spiritual destruction we are when we
forsake mother, speak evil of her, do all in our power to make her work
impossible. We do harm to our own spiritual life.
So frequently the church lies at the periphery of our life.
It is an institution towards which we tip our hats on occasion. It is handy to
have around when we need a baby baptized, or when we wish to marry, or when we
are ready to be buried. We might even attend church with some regularity
thinking in this way to maintain our tenuous ties with God and slipping into
heaven by the back door at the last moment. We may use the church as a safety
net so that we have something to fall back on when the going is difficult. But
all this will not do. It is really rooted in selfishness. We seek ourselves, our
own purposes, our own pleasures, our own name and honour. We set ourselves up
above the church and, if we recognize the church at all, we do so to make the
church serve our goals in life.
But the Lord requires something quite different from us. The
church is far, far more important than any one of us. What happens to us
personally is of little account; what happens to the church is more important
than anything. The church must be at the centre of our lives so that all we do
revolves around the church. To it we must devote our lives. For its good we must
deny ourselves. What will benefit the church is far more important than what
There are times when things do not go as we think they should
in the church. There are events which disturb us. There are decisions taken
which we consider less than wise. There are people who irritate us. There are
sermons which we consider less than desirable. There are imperfections which we,
in our own self-righteousness, cannot tolerate. But it remains our calling to
put aside our own personal likes and wishes for the greater welfare of the
church. For the peace of Jerusalem is far more important than any one of us and
our own personal comforts or pleasures.
This does not mean that we overlook unconfessed sin, or
tolerate false doctrine. The welfare of the church ought to be so much our
concern that we seek the holiness of our fellow saints and the purity of the
doctrine of our Lord Jesus Christ. But when we help those entrapped in sin, we
go with them to the cross, kneeling there at their side. When we pursue purity
of doctrine, we do so with the desire to see "mother" remain or become the
institution we need for ourselves and our children. We do so fully aware of the
fact that every one of us is a great sinner, saved by grace, and that not one of
us is capable of knowing fully the great, towering truths of God’s Word. Prof.
"Was Saul a saved man?" asks one of our readers. That is, was
Saul a deeply backslidden believer or was he of the seed of the serpent?
Augustine rightly states that Saul "certainly was reprobated" (City of God,
17.6). As Israel’s first king, Saul’s iniquity is especially evident in his sins
against God’s kingdom.
Two sins early in Saul’s reign led to his forfeiting the
kingdom. Prior to a battle with the Philistines, Saul offered the sacrifice
before Samuel’s return, contrary to God’s command (I Sam. 13:8-14). Later he
disobeyed Jehovah by refusing to slay all the Amalekites and their beasts (ch.
15). Saul would not rule according to God’s word, therefore God took the throne
from him to give it to the man after His own heart, David (13:14).
Saul was "David’s enemy continually" (lit. "all his days;"
18:29) for he knew he would succeed him as king. Twice Saul tried to smite David
with his spear (18:11; 19:10). He contrived to have the Philistines kill him in
battle (18:17, 25). He planned to seize David on leaving his house and execute
him (19:11-17). David escaped to Samuel and then hid in forests and in caves
(19:18ff.). Even then Saul pursued David and sought to kill him. So great was
Saul’s hatred that anyone seen to favour David was suspect. Thus Saul ordered
Doeg the Edomite to slay 85 priests and their families at Nob (22:17-19) and
Saul even attempted to take Jonathan’s life (20:33). Jonathan pleaded with his
father for David (19:4-7) and David twice spared Saul’s life (ch. 24, 26) but
after a brief cessation Saul resumed his efforts to assassinate David.
Saul lived and died hating David, the man after God’s heart.
I John 3:15 reads, "Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that
no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him." One of Saul’s last acts was to
consult a witch (I Sam. 28) which is forbidden in God’s law (Deut. 18:14). He
exited this world a suicide like Ahithophel, Zimri and Judas Iscariot, with
God’s judgement upon him (I Chron. 10:13).
But did not God give Saul "another heart" and thereby make
him "another man" (I Sam. 10:6, 9)? Yes, but "another heart" is different from
the "new heart." Those whom God gives a new heart He causes to walk in His
statutes and keep His judgements (Eze. 36:26-27). Saul did not keep God’s
statutes. Thus he never received a new heart. God gave another heart to Saul to
equip him to rule in his office as king. Saul began life a mere Israelite
citizen but with the Spirit upon him he prophesied (I Sam. 10:6-13) and was
empowered to lead an army to victory thus consolidating his kingdom (11:6-15).
That Saul was an unbeliever is important for a right
understanding of the narrative in I Samuel 9-31, ruling out the misapplication
of Saul’s life to backsliding Christians. It is also important for the typology
involved. In Saul’s continual murderous assaults on David we see Satan’s hellish
attack on Christ and His kingdom. But God defends and preserves His church! This
preservation also keeps even the weakest believer from living like Saul in
hatred of Christ whom David typifies. Rev. Stewart
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