December 2006 • Volume XI, Issue 8
Abiding in Our Calling (3)
Last time we considered the calling of
Christians who are circumcised or uncircumcised (I Cor. 7:18-19); this
time we turn to believers who are "servants," literally "slaves," those in
the most degrading and restricted of vocations (21-23).
Note what the Holy Spirit does not say:
"Christian slaves, rise up against your masters! Slavery is per se sinful;
the new order has come; shake off all servitude and unite for slave
rights!" Instead, we read, "care not for it" (21). "Do not worry or fret
or plot your escape, as if being a slave is absolutely unbearable and
inconsistent with the Christian life!" Why? "For he that is called in the
Lord, being a servant, is the Lord’s freeman: likewise also he that is
called, being free, is Christ’s servant" (22). A Christian slave is
Christ’s freeman—free from Satan, sin and hell. He is free to serve God in
Christ, for he knows the truth and the truth has made him free (John
8:32). Though physically he is a slave, spiritually he has the greatest
freedom in the world. So do not be anxious about being a slave (I Cor.
7:21)! Only the gospel can come with an ethic like this!
On the other hand, a Christian who is a
free citizen (as most News readers are) is Christ’s slave (22). For we are
not our own but belong to Jesus Christ, to do His bidding. Our master is
no tyrant; He is good and gracious to us.
Does this imply that if a man is a slave
when he is effectually called that he must stay this way all his life?
"but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather" (21). There are various
ways whereby a slave can be set free: by his master’s will and testament,
by being purchased with money (either his or his friends), as a reward for
faithful service, etc. The apostle does not merely say to a Christian
slave "take" your freedom but "use" it (24). Use your greater
liberty for the service of Jesus Christ and not merely for your own
Whatever your vocation, believer, you
are "bought with a price," the blood of Christ (23). Therefore, "be not
... the servants of men" (23), as "menpleasers;" work not merely to
satisfy your boss but serve the Lord with a single heart (Col. 3:22).
Reject the worldly wisdom of unbelievers that earthly freedom is the main
thing. Rather, consider all things, including your vocation, in the light
of your effectual call and redemption in Christ and your spiritual freedom
in Him. We must think this way in all our circumstances, even if we are
earthly slaves and treated very badly. This glorifies Almighty God and
enables us to persevere in all our difficulties, especially in our
workplaces, though very few of us suffer to the degree of the Christian
slaves in I Peter 2:18-25. Rev. Stewart
Original Sin (1)
Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and
in sin did my mother conceive me (Ps. 51:5).
A reader writes, "All gospel preachers emphasize that we are all
undeserving sinners who deserve to spend eternity in hell. Yet it can be
argued that we are not undeserving (Ps. 51:5). I never chose to be shapen
in iniquity, nor that my mother should conceive me in sin. I never even
chose to be born in the first place. Better not to be born at all then to
spend eternity in hell." The reader’s argument is this: We are not really
to blame for our sins because we were born sinners and had no choice in
the matter. Therefore, we are not "undeserving sinners."
A brief history of Psalm 51 would help
us in our understanding of the text. The heading of the psalm reads, "To
the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came unto
him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba." The history is recorded in II
Samuel 11-12. This psalm was written after David’s repentance for his sins
of adultery and murder.
It is, of course, a part of sacred Scripture, and is, therefore,
infallibly inspired. In fact, it is addressed to the "chief Musician,"
because it was intended to be sung by the temple choirs as a part of the
worship of God in His sanctuary. It has found a place in the liturgy of
the church ever since David penned these words, for it is a confession
that arises out of the heart of every child of God.
We must understand at the very outset
that verse 5 of this psalm is not an attempt on the part of David to put
the blame for his sin elsewhere than on himself. This is clear even from
the opening three verses of the psalm. David can only appeal to God for
"mercy" (Ps. 51:1) and cleansing (2), according to His "lovingkindness"
and "the multitude of [His] tender mercies" (1), because of his terrible
sin, which is "ever before" him (3) and which he freely confesses: "I
acknowledge my transgression" (3).
David’s statement in verse 4 is also important: "Against thee, thee only,
have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be
justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest." If verse 5
is an attempt on David’s part to excuse himself for the crimes he
committed, the question arises: Who is to blame? The only answer can be:
God is to blame, for God caused me to be born and God caused me to be born
sinful. But now David confesses his own sin as his and his only, in order
that God might be justified when He condemned David through Nathan the
prophet, so that God might be clear of all blame when He judged David a
The correct interpretation of Psalm 51:5
is this: What David says here about being shapen in iniquity and conceived
in sin is itself a confession of sin. David is saying (as difficult as it
may be for us to understand), "It is my fault that I was born in sin."
I do not mean to say that verse 5 is not an explanation which David makes
for his sin; indeed it is. He sinned because he was born a sinner. But
David is not trying to escape responsibility for his sin. By his
explanation, he is making a further confession of sin. David’s confession
is somewhat analogous to a man who explains the reason why he robbed a
bank by pointing to the fact that he was a member of a gang whose purpose
it was to acquire money through robbing banks. He is not excusing himself,
but explaining why he did what he did. That he joined such a gang is his
activity, his first big sin.
The question is: How is it possible that
David is responsible for the fact that he was shapen in iniquity and
conceived in sin? He did not even have anything to say about the fact that
he was born; much less that he was born a sinner.
The answer to the question is the biblical doctrine of original sin. The
doctrine of original sin is taught in many places in Scripture, but most
clearly and most emphatically in Romans 5:12-14: "Wherefore, as by one man
sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all
men, for that all have sinned: (For until the law sin was in the world:
but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned
from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the
similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to
come." As Paul explains further in Romans 5, this doctrine is based on the
truth that Adam was created as the head of the human race. Adam was the
legal head and the organic head. As the legal head, Adam represented the
whole human race in his moral and ethical relation to God, especially in
connection with God’s command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of
good and evil.
In representing the whole human race,
Adam’s act of obedience or disobedience was the act of the whole human
race. His obedience would be the obedience of the human race; his
disobedience would be the disobedience of the human race. The guilt of his
disobedience would be the guilt of the whole human race. The punishment
for his disobedience would be the punishment of the whole human race. We
will explore this further next time. Prof. Hanko
The Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven (1)
And I will give unto thee the keys of
the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be
bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed
in heaven (Matt. 16:19). Verily I say unto
you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and
whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven (Matt.
18:18). Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and
whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained (John 20:23).
I was asked to explain these texts in connection with the "keys of the
kingdom of heaven." Matthew 16:19 speaks of the keys of the kingdom and
the binding and loosing of sins. Matthew 18:18 speaks of the binding and
loosing of sins. John 20:23 speaks of the remitting and the retaining of
sins. Thus we see that through the keys (Matt. 16:19) sins are bound and
loosed (Matt. 16:19; 18:18), that is, remitted and retained (John 20:23).
Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Reformed churches all agree that these three
texts are speaking of the same subject.
Christ, who owns the keys of the kingdom
of heaven (Matt. 16:19; Rev. 3:7), gives them to Peter (Matt. 16:19) and
the other disciples (John 20:23), as apostles of the church, and to the
church (Matt. 18:18) to use through her teachers and elders (Matt. 18:18;
Eph. 4:11; I Tim. 3:1-7; 5:17).
The keys are church discipline (Matt. 18:18) and the preaching of the
gospel (Matt. 16:19; John 20:23). By these means, sins are retained and
bound on the impenitent or loosed and remitted from the penitent. To
express it differently, through the faithful preaching of God’s Word and
biblical church discipline, the kingdom of heaven is opened to believers
and shut to unbelievers. The Holy Spirit uses faithful preaching and
discipline to seal on the consciousness of the believer his inclusion in
the kingdom of God. Likewise, by the proper use of the keys, unbelievers
hear the gate of the city of God shut against them.
What is the role of the church in this?
No man, not even an assembly of saints in an instituted congregation, can
remit transgressions; God alone can forgive sins (Luke 5:21). The church
forgives sins declaratively, when it proclaims the basis for
the forgiveness of sins (the death of Christ for all the iniquities of His
people) and the way of receiving the forgiveness of sins (faith
alone in Christ), and promises forgiveness of sins to all believers
and their (elect) children (Acts 2:38-39; 16:31). In preaching, true
churches through their ordained pastors proclaim that all who trust in
Christ alone for all their salvation are forgiven (thus loosing and
remitting their sins) and that all who do not believe are not forgiven
(thus binding and retaining their sins). Church members who fall into sin
in doctrine or life or both and remain impenitent, after frequent
brotherly admonition by the elders, are excommunicated by the church (thus
binding and retaining their sins), but if they later repent and show real
amendment they are readmitted as members of Christ’s church (thus loosing
and remitting their sins). Rev. Stewart
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