Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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February 2003, Volume IX, Issue 10


God-Breathed Scripture (4)

II Timothy 3:16-17 expresses the goal of the Bible: "All Scripture is [God-breathed], and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works."

These verses speak especially of the Christian minister. II Timothy was written to a minister (Timothy). He is addressed as "thou" (15) and called a "man of God" (17). The true minister is a "man of God" because he is shaped by and proclaims God-breathed Scripture. Yet it is evident that these verses also apply to all God’s children.

The argument of the text is easily grasped. First, Scripture teaches, reproves, corrects and disciplines us. Second, this makes us "perfect," capable and complete. Third, the complete Christian is "throughly furnished" (totally equipped) unto all good works.

This teaches us the sufficiency of Scripture. All Scripture is profitable for four key things (doctrine, reproof, correction, discipline) making Christians complete and thoroughly equipped unto all good works. The sufficiency of Scripture does not mean that it is sufficient as a history of Britain or a recipe book, though this does not mean that the Bible is in some way deficient. It is sufficient for the task for which God has appointed it. The Bible’s purpose is to "make us wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" (15) and to teach, reprove, correct and discipline us in righteous living. Thus it enables us to do all good works so that we bring glory to God. As Westminster Confession 1:6 states, "The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from scripture."

This means, first, that the minister must preach nothing more and nothing less than the whole counsel of God set forth in sacred Scripture. Second, the people of God must want Scripture preached to them with the specific purposes and goals God assigns to it. It will not do to say, "I do not like doctrine," or "I don’t want to be reproved in the preaching," or "I don’t like the discipline of the Word." God has given Scripture (and the preaching of Scripture) in order to teach, rebuke and discipline us. You must not only want to be taught and to be exhorted to live godly in Christ Jesus, but you must require that sound doctrine and the warnings of Scripture be proclaimed. Thus you must seek out a faithful church where the Word is explained and applied the way II Timothy 3:16-17 directs. Remember, it is as you are taught, rebuked, corrected and disciplined by the preaching of God-breathed Scripture that you are more and more fitted to all good works and experience God’s love, joy and peace. Rev. Stewart

The Mysteries of the Kingdom (3)

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 understand (Luke 8:10).

The questioner asks, "Is this election and reprobation, or just acknowledging that some just will not turn and believe (as some commentaries maintain)?"

In an earlier News I quoted the parallel passages to Luke 8:10 in Matthew and Mark. I also pointed out that Jesus explains in these passages that His purpose in His use of parables as a method of instruction is to make the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven so clear that everyone can understand them. We must now turn to the reader’s question and consider whether election and reprobation are taught in this passage.

The text teaches that God Himself makes a sovereign distinction between men. Jesus said, "It is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given" (Matt. 13:11). Clearly a distinction is made between the disciples on the one hand, and "them" on the other hand.

The distinction which Jesus makes is not based on anything which the disciples did and which others failed to do. Nor does the distinction arise out of any superior qualities which the disciples possessed which others did not possess. The text makes no mention of anything like that. The distinction rests solely in God’s choice to give faith to some and not to give it to others. The use of the passive voice very clearly emphasizes that the Giver is God, and that some receive the ability to know the mysteries of the kingdom while others do not receive this ability.

The point is that no man can hear or see or understand the mysteries of the kingdom unless God gives him this ability. All men are totally depraved, and the words of our Lord to Nicodemus remain forever true: "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3).

This sovereign distinction is once again emphasized by Jesus: "But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear" (Matt. 13:16). This sovereign distinction God makes between men is election and reprobation.

The quotation from Isaiah 6 is crucially important. Isaiah 6 records for us the call of Isaiah as God’s prophet to Judah. It is a marvellous and instructive passage. God explains the purpose of Isaiah’s ministry: "Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and made their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed" (9-10).

You will notice that the language is in the form of a command. Isaiah must command the people to whom he preaches. God does not say that Isaiah must tell the people: "Now you hear, and it is my desire that you understand; now you see, and it is my desire that you perceive." God does not even tell Isaiah to predict what will happen: "You will hear the gospel from my servant Isaiah, but I am sure you will not understand; you will see what Isaiah speaks, but you will not perceive." The word which Isaiah is to bring to the people is God’s sovereign command. God says: "I command you to hear, but also not to understand. I command you to see, and not to perceive." This is strong language, but very clearly this is the text.

That this is indeed the meaning is evident from God’s command to Isaiah, a command which Isaiah will obey by his preaching: "Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes." And God explains that He wants it this way because He does not want them to be converted and healed.

Now we must apply this to the passage in Matthew, Mark and Luke. Notice, first of all, that Jesus explains His reason for teaching in parables by saying that the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled in them. That is, the prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled in Judah under Isaiah’s ministry, but that prophecy must still be fulfilled in Israel until the nation is destroyed. And, we might add, this prophecy of Isaiah is still being fulfilled whenever and wherever the gospel is preached. That this is true is evident from Paul’s quotation of this same prophecy while in Rome during his imprisonment (Acts 28:25-27).

The truth of this is strengthened by the parallel passage in Mark 4:11-12: "All these things are done in parables: that seeing they may see and not perceive ..." The word "that," in the Greek, is the word used to introduce a purpose clause. The meaning is therefore: Jesus spoke in parables in order that the people would not believe (and thus the prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled). Or, to put it as clearly as possible: Jesus’ (and God’s) purpose in the use of parables is to bring about the unbelief of those who are not given eyes to see the mysteries of the kingdom. This is sovereign reprobation. It is the effecting of God’s decree to send some to hell because of their sins—and that in distinction from the elect, who receive the spiritual ability to see the kingdom of heaven.

How different this is from making the gospel a well-meant offer in which God expresses a longing, born out of love, to save all men. Such a god isn’t worthy to be God. The God of Scripture is sovereign; He does all His pleasure (Ps. 115:3). Prof. Hanko

Is Universal Atonement True? (4)

This issue, we continue our critique of unlimited atonement by considering several parties for whom Jesus must have died if this theory were true.

(10) If Christ died for all, He must have died for Cain as well as Abel, Nimrod as well as Noah, Balaam as well as Moses. This holds good for nations too. Christ must have ransomed not only Israel but also the Amalekites (Ex. 17:14-16), the Canaanites (Josh. 11:20), the Amorites (including Sihon; Deut. 2:30), the Philistines (including Goliath) and the Edomites (Mal. 1:2-5). He must even have offered Himself a sacrifice for Pharoah (Ex. 4:21; Rom. 9:17) and the Egyptians (Ex. 14:17), even though no provision was made for the application of lamb’s blood upon their lintels.

(11) If Christ died for all men, then it follows that he was crucified to save the "man of sin" (II Thess. 2:3) who "opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is God, or that is worshipped" (4). This man is the culmination of the working of the "mystery of iniquity" (7), the one who works with "all deceivableness of unrighteousness" (10) whose "coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders" (9). Is it possible that the Father sent Christ to die for Satan’s man, the "man of sin" and "son of perdition" (3), the one wholly characterized by iniquity and eternal destruction? Is it possible that the eternal, omniscient God sent His Son to reconcile the lawless one whom He has ordained will be destroyed by the "spirit of [Christ’s] mouth" and "the brightness of His coming" (8)?

II Thessalonians 2 also speaks of the followers of the man of sin. They reject the truth and the son of perdition deceives them, and therefore both parties are guilty (10). But we also read that "God shall send them strong delusion that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned" (11-12). If God loved them and sent Christ to die for them and wants to save them, then why does He send them strong delusion in order that they should believe the lie in order that they all might be damned?

Similarly, a death of Christ for absolutely everybody presents Christ as offering Himself as a sacrifice for the beast and the false prophet whom we are told shall be "cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone" (Rev. 19:20). Moreover, "whosoever was not found written in the book of life [will be] cast into the lake of fire" (20:15). If Christ died for them, His ransom did nothing to free them from eternal punishment.

(12) In His public ministry Jesus spoke of the unpardonable sin: "whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come" (Matt. 12:32). Nor was Jesus merely speaking here in the abstract; some of His hearers that day had committed that sin (22-37). Jesus knew, therefore, that some people, including these Pharisees (24), could not be forgiven. What sense then is there in Jesus dying for the redemption and forgiveness (Eph. 1:7) of those who absolutely cannot be forgiven? If there are some people whom He "will not at all acquit" (Nah. 1:3), why would Christ die to establish a basis for their acquittal? Rev. Stewart

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