Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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December 2004, Volume X, Issue 8


Receiving Preaching as the Word of God (2)

Though the doctrine that preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God does not confuse preaching and the Bible (see the last News), is not the preacher perhaps divine or at least divine when he is preaching? Of course not! The preacher is not God and does not share God’s being or works. Rather, God blesses His own truth which is faithfully opened up and explained by a saved sinner "sent" by Jesus Christ.

Perhaps this doctrine might make the preacher arrogant and domineering, and doesn’t it imply that he is infallible? The preacher is not inspired or infallible. Instead, believing this doctrine humbles the minister—a sinful man used to declare God’s counsel.

Another objection is that this view of preaching as the Word of God might make void the office of believer. Are not Christians, therefore, simply to receive everything from the pulpit unquestioningly? No. Scripture teaches both that preaching "is in truth, the word of God" (I Thess. 2:13) and that we must be like the Bereans who "received the word [preached] with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so" (Acts 17:11). All preaching must be tested. Preaching which is not in accordance with the Bible must be rejected as a lie and not the Word of God. Preaching which is in accordance with the Bible must be received as the Word of God.

Someone might then ask, "Shouldn’t we write down sermons and add them to the biblical canon?" No; although faithful preaching is the Word of God, it is not a supplement to the Bible. Rather it is an explanation of the Bible by one of Christ’s messengers to His church.

To summarise, preaching is the Word of God when it is a faithful exposition of and exhortation from the Bible by one who is called of God and His church to that office. This is what the Bible teaches. We have seen that Paul, Silas, Timothy and all true ministers have the office of publicly proclaiming God’s Word. Acts 17:2-3 describes this as reasoning out of the Scriptures and explaining and demonstrating the truth of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. I Thessalonians 2:13 calls this "the word of God."

Preaching must be God’s Word for it to be the chief means of grace. If Jesus Christ does not speak to us in the preaching, how can we receive God’s grace and be blessed and built up thereby? Preaching is the chief means of grace because by it Christ speaks to us and imparts Himself to us. It is the link between God’s redemption of us in Christ and our apprehension of it by faith. If preaching is not Christ speaking to us, what is it? Merely religious discourse or an interesting speech or the voice of the minister? Scripture rules this out: faithful preaching is "not ... the word of men" but "it is in truth, the word of God" (I Thess. 2:13). Rev. Stewart

The Eternal Covenant With Levi (4)

For thus saith the Lord; David shall never want a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel; Neither shall the priests the Levites want a man before me to offer burnt offerings, and to kindle meat offerings, and to do sacrifice continually. And the word of the Lord came unto Jeremiah, saying, Thus saith the Lord; If ye can break my covenant of the day, and my covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their season; then may also my covenant be broken with David my servant, that he should not have a son to reign upon his throne; and with the Levites the priests, my ministers (Jer. 33:17-21).

The question that was submitted with this text is: "How has the promise to the Levites been fulfilled?" Previously we discussed various aspects of the text quoted above. We noticed that it has important implications for the faithful remnant in Judah and for the church of all ages, for it deals with God’s covenant promises. But the specific question has not yet been answered. That question deals with the fulfilment of this prophecy insofar as it pertains to the priests of the tribe of Levi.

I remind our readers that we noticed that the fulfilment of the promise to David, of which the text speaks, came with the coming of Christ. The same is true concerning the promise of the restoration of the priesthood of the tribe of Levi. There are several texts in Scripture and several teachings of Scripture to consider in this respect.

First, as well as Malachi 2:4-5 there is another place in Scripture where God’s choice of the priesthood of Levi is called a covenant which He establishes. I refer to the heroic and godly deed of slaying the fornicators who publicly and brazenly committed their act of fornication in the sight of the nation. This was at the time when the daughters of Moab, at the suggestion of Balaam, tempted the men of Israel to join in the sacrifices and fornications of Moab’s idolatry. Phinehas slew a prince of Simeon named Zimri and the Moabite woman he took into his tent.

God’s word was: "Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, while he was zealous for my sake among them, that I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy. Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace: and he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel" (Num. 25:11-13).

Notice that the covenant with Phinehas is described as everlasting, something not possible with Phinehas himself; and thus a reference to Christ.

Second, Christ is the fulfilment of all the priests of the tribe of Levi as the great High Priest sent from God to make perfect atonement for sin. He is the realization of God’s covenant with Phinehas. Christ is the perfect fulfilment because He offers the perfect sacrifice for sin and thus fulfils all the sacrifices specifically mentioned in this prophecy of Jeremiah. Although this is one of the great themes in the book of Hebrews, it is specifically taught in chapter 10:1-14—which passage our readers are urged to look up and read. In Christ, therefore, the promise of God concerning the Levites is fulfilled.

The beautiful part of this prophecy and its fulfilment is that Christ, in fulfilling both parts of the promise of God through Jeremiah, united in Himself the two offices of king and priest. Both the promises of the restoration of the monarchy and the restoration of the sacrifices have their historical fulfilment in the return from captivity, but both also have their perfect fulfilment in Christ.

Thus Hebrews tells us some important things about Christ. He is not a priest after the order of Aaron and the Levites, but He is a priest after the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 7—which chapter our readers are also urged to consult). Melchizedek was a unique type of Christ, for He was the only man in the Old Testament who united the office of priest and king in his own person (Gen. 14:18; Heb. 7:1). Psalm 110 portrays Christ as a king (1-3) and as a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek (4).

Hebrews 10, after describing Christ’s fulfilment of the Levitical priesthood, goes on to say, "But this man [Christ], after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool" (10:12-13). This is a very clear reference to the fact that Christ, in His exaltation, becomes priest and king forever, for the right hand of God is heaven’s position of total authority to rule in the name of God.

And so God’s covenant with His people, typically administered in the Old Testament, is fulfilled in Christ. Thus the whole of chapter 10 in the epistle to the Hebrews follows upon that glorious description of the covenant which is established through the Mediator of the new covenant and which endures forever.

Judah was called by Jeremiah to look to the coming of Christ for the fulfilment of God’s promise—even in the dark days of the captivity. We are called to look likewise to the unfailing promises of God in Christ as we live in our own captivity in the Babylon of this present world. Prof. H. Hanko

Love Your Enemies (1)

Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust (Matt. 5:44-45).

Of the few texts which are cited in support of common grace with any plausibility, Matthew 5:44-45 perhaps occurs the most frequently, though usually without any supporting exegesis. All agree that God does give good things to the reprobate in this life. But does this text really teach that the earthly good things given by God to the reprobate are given by God out of love for the reprobate?

The common grace interpretation of Matthew 5:44-45, of course, creates several serious problems, problems which are largely ignored by the theory’s advocates. How can the one and undivided God love and hate the same people at the same time? How can the eternal, unchanging God have a temporal, changeable love for the reprobate? Remember this alleged love of God for the reprobate begins with their conception (unless it is posited that God eternally loved the reprobate) and ends with their death (unless it is posited that God loves the reprobate in Hell). Various evasions, such as "paradox," have been made but no proper response has been given. In the meantime, the churches and individuals who hold this theory (and those who follow them) go further away from the truth of Calvinism (which they profess to hold) and deeper and deeper into Arminianism, protesting all the while that they are Reformed.

But aside from these wider issues, we must examine the text itself. Its subject is the Christian’s treatment of his "enemies," who are also called "them that curse you," "them that hate you" and "them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Christ tells us here that we must do four things with respect to our enemies: we must "love," "bless," "do good" and "pray for" them. Our motivation for loving, blessing, doing good and praying for our enemies is "that [we] may be the children of [our] Father which is in heaven." For there is a likeness between our righteous actions and those of our Father who "maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." To put it differently, the text makes a comparison between what believers are called to do (44) and what God does (45), for in our doing these things (44), we show ourselves to be His children (45). Thus we need to consider the similarities and dissimilarities between what we must do towards our enemies and what our Father does towards the "evil" and "unjust." What exactly is being compared?

Does Christ do any of the four things ("love," "bless," "do good" and "pray") for His enemies that we are to do to our enemies? Christ most certainly does "love," "bless," "do good" and "pray for" His elect enemies. His doing these very things for us is our salvation through the blood of His cross. But does Christ do any, all or some of these things for His reprobate enemies? And does God do any, all or some of these things for His reprobate enemies? To these questions we will turn next time (DV). Rev. Stewart

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