Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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August 2002, Volume IX, Issue 4


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, Hinduism’s 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 benefits us.

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. H. Hanko

Was Saul Saved?

"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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