Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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December 2002, Volume IX, Issue 8


God-breathed Scripture (2)

Last time we considered the fact (not the theory!) of the divine inspiration of the Holy Scriptures: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God [literally, God-breathed]" (II Tim. 3:16). But what about Bible versions? Are any of them "God-breathed"?

The CPRF uses the Authorised Version (AV) for two main reasons. First, we believe that the AV is translated from the best Hebrew and Greek manuscripts - manuscripts which have been preserved in and used by the church over the centuries. These manuscripts are faithful to the autographs or original manuscripts penned by the prophets and apostles. In no age has God’s church ever been without His pure Word, for the Scriptures have "by [God’s] singular care and providence [been] kept pure in all ages, [and they] are therefore authentical" (Westminster Confession 1:8). Second, we believe that the AV is based on the best principles of translation. The translators sought to convey not merely the general thought of each text of Scripture but the very expressions in which it is conveyed. Where exact literalness was impossible, the translators of the AV gave full expression of its meaning in English. The AV italicises words not in the original - words which were necessary to give the sense of the text in English. Thus it shows its commitment to verbal inspiration, the truth that every word is God-breathed.

This brings us back to our original question: Is every word of the AV (or any other Bible version) God-breathed? If the words of the AV were God-breathed, then its translators must have been borne by the Spirit as the holy prophets who wrote not "by the will of man" but "as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (II Peter 1:21). If the words of the AV were God-breathed, then what of the earlier translations of Tyndale and others? If their translations were God-breathed, then there would be two or more God-breathed English Bible translations. If only the AV was God-breathed, then there was no God-breathed English Bible until 1611. And were the revisions of the AV in 1629, 1638, 1762 and 1769 also God-breathed? Did one God-breathed revision replace another God-breathed revision? Do other languages have one God-breathed translation? Then there would be God-breathed Polish and Arabic translations and thousands more.

The Hebrew and Greek autographs were "immediately inspired by God [God-breathed]," and "by God’s singular care and providence" through the faithful copying of the divine original over the centuries, His Word has been "kept pure in all ages" (Westminster Confession 1:8). The English words of the AV, though not themselves directly breathed by God, constitute a faithful and trustworthy translation of the God-breathed original, so that we have in our hands the more sure Word, God’s hammer. Rev. Stewart

The Mysteries of the Kingdom (1)

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 hear (Luke 8:10).

The accompanying question is: "Is this election and reprobation, or just acknowledging that some just will not turn and believe (as some commentaries maintain)?"

The parallel passages in Matthew and Mark are worth quoting here: And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: for this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear (Matt. 13:10-16).

And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable. And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: that seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them (Mark 4:10-12).

It must not be forgotten that these verses are Jesus’ explanation for teaching in parables. Many commentators take an entirely wrong view of the passage and explain these words to mean that Jesus used parables to make the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven obscure. Parables then are something like riddles which are difficult to solve and understand. One has to have the key to unlock their hidden truths. Jesus, so to speak, gives His disciples the key, while He does not give it to others. The result is that the disciples are enabled to understand the parables, while those without the key are not. Parables then provide something like the mysterious, hidden, saving knowledge which certain sects claim they alone have. Only an inner circle really understands true knowledge, and one must possess certain clues, or keys, or inner light to be able to appropriate this secret knowledge. The majority of people are outside the circle of the select few.

But this is dead wrong. Jesus taught in parables in order to make the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven as clear as possible. The kingdom of heaven is a kingdom outside this world and outside human experience in this world. The kingdom of heaven is emphatically "of heaven." It is spiritual and from above, from another world. Hence, it is always difficult for earthly people to understand heavenly realities. So our Lord uses earthly illustrations and figures to make clear heavenly and spiritual truths.

The kingdom of heaven is like a sower that went forth to sow. You see, there is a point of similarity between the earthly and the heavenly. And that point of similarity is there because God Himself created this earthly creation after the pattern of the heavenly. A sower’s sowing his seed on different types of soil is a picture of gospel preaching, which also falls on different kinds of hearts. Everyone can understand this.

Milton Terry in his Biblical Hermeneutics puts it well: "May we not safely affirm that the analogies traceable between the natural and spiritual worlds are parts of a divine harmony which it is the noblest mental exercise to discover and unfold? ... Trench has the following profound observations: ‘It is not merely that these analogies assist to make the truth intelligible, or, if intelligible before, present it more vividly to the mind ... Their power lies deeper ... They are arguments, and may be alleged as witnesses; the world of nature being throughout a witness for the world of spirit, proceeding from the same hand ... All lovers of truth ... know that the earthly tabernacle is made after the pattern of things seen in the mount; and the question suggested by the angel in Milton is often forced upon their meditations—"What if earth / Be but the shadow of heaven and things therein / Each to other life, more than on earth is thought?"’"

All this has not answered the question whether Jesus’ statement has to do with election and reprobation. It is my firm conviction that indeed it does; that, in fact, it cannot be explained in any other way. That election and reprobation are implied here is clear from our Lord’s quotation of the prophecy of Isaiah 6:9-10.

But I want to show how this claim is true from the passage itself. And I can do that only by showing first of all that Jesus’ answer is closely tied in with His reason for teaching in parables. And that reason is that Jesus may make the truths of the kingdom He had come to establish as clear as possible - as clear as possible not only to His disciples, but also to all the Jews. Not only, throughout the ages, to the believer, but also to the unbeliever. All must understand the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.

But more needs to be said. Please, keep this News in a handy place so that you can review what is written here before reading the next instalment. Prof. H. Hanko

Is Universal Atonement True? (2)

In the last News we began to critique the widely held position that Christ shed His blood to redeem everyone head for head. Now we shall add to the previous four arguments, three others based upon Scriptural designations of those for whom Christ died.

(5) Christ died for His "people" (Matt.1:21) and His "friends" (John 15:13). The "people" whom Christ redeemed are further described as "his seed" (Isa. 53:10) and not the seed of the serpent (Gen. 3:15); His "sons," "children" and "brethren" (Heb. 2:10-14) and not "bastards" (Heb.12:8); His "sheep" (John 10:15) and not "the goats" (Matt. 25:33); His "church" (Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:25) and not the "synagogue of Satan" (Rev. 3:9); and the "many" (Isa. 53:11-12; Matt. 26:28) and not everybody head for head.

(6) In John 10, Jesus teaches that He, the good shepherd, died for His sheep (11, 15). Later Jesus told some people that they were not His sheep and that this was the reason why they did not believe: "But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep" (26). Our argument is simple: Jesus died for His sheep; He told certain people that they were not His sheep; therefore Jesus did not die for them. Jesus also said that His sheep were given to Him by His Father ("My Father, which gave them me;" 29). The Father gave the sheep to Christ in His eternal purpose of election so that He might die for them and gather them out of all nations (16). Since Christ died for His sheep, and His sheep are the elect, Christ died for the elect.

(7) In His high priestly prayer, Christ says, "I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine" (John 17:9). If Jesus did not do the lesser thing (pray for the world), is it likely that He did the greater thing (die for the world)? Moreover, intercession is one of the two aspects of Christ’s priestly work. If Christ did not pray for the world (one aspect of his priestly work), is it possible that He died for the world (the other aspect of his priestly work)? This would destroy the unity of Christ’s priestly office for He would be dying for those for whom He did not (and does not) intercede. Consider also that Christ prays on the basis of His finished work of redemption. Therefore if Christ did not pray for the world, it is because He did not die to redeem the world.

Remember also that Jesus is here praying just hours before the cross and with a view to His sacrificial death, for He says, "Father, the hour is come" (1). Throughout John 17, Christ’s prayers (and therefore His redeeming work) are particular, only for the elect, those whom the Father gave Him (2, 6, 9, 11, 12, 24). Christ says, "And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified" (19). Christ’s sanctifying Himself is His setting Himself apart from all sin to do the will of Him who sent Him. Christ especially set Himself apart as our willing sacrifice on the cross. And this, He tells us, was "for their sakes," those whom the Father gave Him, the elect. Thus Christ’s prayers and sacrifice are not only particular—"for them which thou hast given me" (9)—but also exclusive, "not for the world" (9). Rev. Stewart

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