Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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February 2005, Volume X, Issue 10

Upon What Does Your Faith Stand? (1)

Holy Scripture warns that "your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men" (I Cor. 2:5). The "wisdom of men" includes superb oratory, what Paul calls "excellency of speech" (1). This would include using "big words" to impress or using flattery to allure. These things merely draw attention to the delivery and the speaker and detract from the message. The old Puritan preachers criticised their high church opponents for making frequent quotations from the classical authors and for making sermons more of a literary production than a divine testimony. Our faith must not stand either in the "wisdom of men" in the form of human philosophy or rational proofs. Arguments for the truth of the Christian faith can be made from the unity and antiquity of the Bible, fulfilled prophecy, miracles, etc. Though these arguments have their uses, we must not believe the gospel merely because of these things. Also our faith must not rest on the testimony of our parents or our spouse or our friends or even on the witness of the Christian church. You must not believe merely because they believe. You personally must believe, and you must believe on more solid grounds than these.

None of these things (flowing oratory, rational proofs or the voice of the church or of friends), either separately or collectively, are sufficient as the ground for faith. A man may be eloquent in promoting the truth or he may be eloquent in advancing the lie. What if an anti-Christian debater is a more powerful reasoner than the Christian apologist? What if your Christian friend falls away? We cannot rest our faith upon man’s reasoning or man’s testimony or man’s oratory. These things are weak as opposed to the "power of God" (5). Saving faith must rest upon God and His Word alone and not on man. The Westminster Confession states, "We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the Church to an high and reverend esteem of the holy scripture, and the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man’s salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it doth abundantly evidence itself to be the word of God; yet, notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness by and with the word in our hearts" (1:5).

Thus the apostle says, "your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God" (I Cor. 2:5). Next time (DV), we shall consider what it means for our faith to stand in the "power of God." Rev. Stewart

The Binding of Satan (2)

And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, and cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season (Rev. 20:1-3).

One of our readers asked for an explanation of the binding of Satan as described in Revelation 20. In the last News, I spoke of the fact that the whole book of Revelation is filled with visionary symbols which are not always so easy to understand. The same is true of Revelation 20.

It is clear, however, that the 1000 years in Revelation 20 is a symbolic way of describing the new dispensation from the time of the ascension of our Lord to heaven to His coming again upon the clouds at the end of the age. It is the time of Christ’s sovereign rule over all God’s creation and everything in it so that the church for which He shed His blood may be gathered to heaven.

I also demonstrated how the binding of Satan must be taken in a symbolic way, for a literal interpretation would not make sense. But, although I was insistent on a symbolic interpretation of this event, I did not explain what it symbolized.

The binding of Satan is symbolic of the fact that the ascended Christ, in His sovereign rule over all, including Satan and his hosts, puts a curb on Satan’s activities so that he is limited in his power, his influence and his destructive rule in this world. The text itself describes the limitation: Satan is bound "that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled" (3). In verse 8 we are told that when Satan is loosed from his prison, he goes "out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle." This is a limiting description of the nations which Satan is prevented from deceiving during the time in which he is bound, and a description of what happens when he is loosed.

We have, therefore, this picture. Though Satan is under the sovereign rule of the ascended Christ, he does go forth to deceive the nations of the earth. His deception consists in this, that he persuades the nations to abandon the worship of God and to serve him, recognizing him as lord of all the universe. He is remarkably successful in this, for wherever the gospel is preached and the church gathered, Satan deceives the unbelieving world into thinking that the truth of Christ is a lie, and that man must live for himself to enjoy life to the full, but always in the service of sin.

Because Christ is sovereign, Satan is limited in his deception during the whole period in which the church is gathered. Presumably, if he were not limited by Christ’s sovereign rule, the world would become, prodded by his deception, so incredibly hostile towards the church that it would be impossible for the elect to be gathered.

That Christ puts such restrictions on Satan is not surprising. When Satan afflicted Job in an effort to get Job to deny his God, God Himself sharply restricted what the devil could do to Job (Job 1:12; 2:6).

The restriction is, however, an inability of Satan to deceive the nations on the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog. The question is, therefore: who are these nations? This is not so easy to answer, and I am not sure if we have enough information from Scripture and from history to make a definite prediction on this matter. Many are bold to do so, but God tends to surprise us when we don a prophet’s mantel, and He does things of which we never thought.

Without being dogmatic about the whole question, a few remarks will help us think about the matter. I once thought that the nations on the four corners of the earth were the nations of Africa and the Orient, nations which were never influenced by Western culture in such a way that they became Christian—as the nations of the West did. They are the nations which remain pagan to this day—over against the so-called Christian nations.

That Satan was unable to deceive them meant that Satan was restricted by Christ from changing their cultural and national characteristics, which would give them incentive to fight against the West with its culture and Christianity. The "hordes" of Asia and Africa could, by sheer numbers, overrun the West.

When Satan is unchained for a short season and goes out to deceive these nations, the meaning would then be that they awake from their centuries-long slumber and are deceived by Satan to believe that the riches and scientific advance of the West and the cultural accomplishments of so-called Christian nations are to be desired. Thus they pursue with vigour the acquisition of such culture, all the while retaining their basic antipathy towards the West.

That would mean that Satan was loosed about 100 years ago, for it was at that time that these nations on the four quarters of the earth began to exert their independence and attain their new-born desire to enjoy the great accomplishments of the technology and scientific advances of the West.

But, although there are some indications in present historical events which suggest that this might be true, I am not prepared to insist on it. I do not think that God has given us that much information that we can tell. Prof. H. Hanko

Love Your Enemies (3)

From our two previous articles on Matthew 5:44-45, we have seen that neither God nor Christ prays for or blesses their reprobate enemies but that both God and Christ do good to their reprobate enemies. Though we say that just as God does not pray for nor bless His reprobate enemies so He does does not love them, others say that God not only does good to His reprobate enemies but He also loves them.

How are we to decide which view is correct? First, one could argue from the analogy between what we are called to do (44) and what God does (45). But since we are called to do two things (pray for and bless our enemies) which God does not do for His reprobate enemies, it cannot be proved that God loves His reprobate enemies. Second, we could look more closely at what God is said to do in verse 45: "he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." The "evil" and the "unjust" surely include those who are reprobate. Causing the sun to rise and the rain to fall (in moderate amounts) on the reprobate is doing good to them (cf. Acts 14:17), but it does not prove that God loves them. God gives earthly "prosperity" to "the wicked" (Ps. 73:3)—something which requires sunshine and rain—but this is "surely" His setting them in "slippery places" before He casts "them down into destruction" (18). Though God gives them good things in His providence, He "despises" them (20) as "corrupt" sinners (8). Third, since the passage itself does not prove whether or not God loves His reprobate enemies, this will have to be settled on the basis of other biblical texts and doctrines. To quote a couple of relevant verses, Romans 9:13 declares, "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated," and Psalm 11:5 teaches that "the wicked and him that loveth violence [God’s] soul hateth."

But what of our calling? We are to love, bless, do good to and pray for our enemies who curse, hate, despitefully use and persecute us (Matt. 5:44). Loving our enemies is not fellowshipping with them in their sin (II Cor. 6:14-18) but desiring and seeking their good physically and spiritually. Out of love, we do good to our enemies by helping them in whatever way we can, including greeting them and being friendly towards them (Matt. 5:47). Out of love, we pray for them, that is, we ask God to save them from their sins and grant them eternal life through Jesus Christ, if it be His will. Our calling to bless our enemies does not mean that we actually confer blessedness upon them; only the Triune God can do that. Nor are we to declare that they are blessed by God, for they are living under His curse (Prov. 3:33; Gal. 3:10). Blessedness is only found in Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:14). Thus we bless our enemies by pointing them to Christ and calling them to repent and believe. As frail creatures made from the dust, as guilty sinners redeemed by grace and as rational-moral beings before God’s holy law, this is our calling towards our ungodly fellow creatures and neighbours. In loving, blessing, doing good to and praying for our enemies (Matt. 5:44), we show ourselves to be the children of our heavenly Father who does good to both just and unjust by giving them the good gifts of rain and sunshine (45). Rev. Stewart

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