Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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January 2007 • Volume XI, Issue 9

Abiding in Our Calling (4)

So how does I Corinthians 7:17-24 apply to vocations other than that of a slave? Perhaps the effectual call came to you as a school child, or you are a wife and mother or you work outside the home, labouring chiefly with your hands or more with your head. The general rule is stay in the situation in which you were effectually called: "Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God" (24). Obviously, there are exceptions. School children grow up. Your health may force you to change job or even retire. Perhaps your work prior to your conversion was sinful (e.g., as a drug seller or a prostitute) or it involved employment on the Lord’s Day which was not work of necessity or mercy.

Why is staying in the vocation in which you were called the general rule (17, 20, 24)? For one thing, it will help preserve civil order, as opposed to the spectacle of all new believers immediately seeking new jobs. This way, the believer witnesses to the grace of Christ in his old station. Also the catholicity of the church is best served by the saints’ godly walk in their various vocations (and not all leaving them to work in one or two fields). Moreover, this shows that Christian contentment does not rest upon favourable external circumstances (especially in one’s employment) but upon faith in the goodness and providence of God.

There are also occasions when it is not only morally neutral but also spiritually beneficial to change one’s job. The text itself suggests this, if it enables you better to serve the Lord (21) and keep His commandments (19).

All this applies to Christian singleness and marriage, the subject of I Corinthians 7. Let us say you are a married person. You are then effectually called. Are you to leave your unbelieving spouse? "Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called" (20). Serve God in this difficult situation (12-16; cf. I Peter 3:1-6). If you are single when converted, you can use your greater freedom to serve the Lord (I Cor. 7:32, 34), so stay there (1, 8). But if you "burn," you ought to marry (9). Whatever your marital status, you have a calling. Believe in God’s sovereign appointment for you and be content, for all things work together for your good (Rom. 8:28). All of the teaching of I Corinthians 7—the goodness of singleness (1, 8), the duty of sex in marriage (3-5), no remarriage while one’s spouse is living (10-11, 39), desertion is no grounds for divorce (15), etc.—is "ordained" by apostolic Scripture for "all churches" in all times (17). This includes perseverance and contentment in our vocations, as we live in fellowship with the Lord: "Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God" (24). Rev. Stewart

Original Sin (2)

Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me (Ps. 51:5).

Last time, we saw that, as the organic head of the human race, Adam brought forth (with Eve) the entire human race. He is the father of all men. Because he was the organic head of the human race, the punishment Adam received from God was brought upon all men. Adam, as the punishment for his sin, was killed by God ("the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die;" Gen. 2:17). He was killed physically and spiritually. His physical death brought him (later) to the grave. His spiritual death made him totally depraved, alienated from God, and eventually would have brought him into hell—if God had not saved him. Romans 5:14 tells us that Adam was the figure of Him who was to come, that is, our Lord Jesus Christ. Christ is the legal and organic head of His elect people. As their legal head, He represented His people when He was born of a virgin, suffered and died on the cross, rose again from the grave, and ascended into heaven. What Christ did for His elect people (as Paul makes clear in Romans 5) is what His people actually did in Him. The apostle speaks, in Romans 6, of dying with Christ, being buried with Christ, and being raised with Christ. All Christ did is, in the sight of God, what we do.

As our organic head, Christ, through the work of the Spirit, makes all His elect, for whom He died, one body with him, united to Him by a living faith. Thus, all that Christ did for us, as our legal head, is actually given us because He is our organic head. "For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" (I Cor. 15:21-22).

David was conscious of the fact that the explanation of his sins of adultery and murder was his participation in and responsibility for Adam’s sin. So conscious was he of this that he confessed this sin as his own. This confession of David, recorded in Psalm 51, is a confession which every child of God must and does make. Heidelberg Catechism A. 54 makes a point of this truth, when, in its discussion of the article of the Apostle’s Creed, "I believe in the forgiveness of sins," it states: "That God, for the sake of Christ’s satisfaction, will no more remember my sins, neither my corrupt nature, against which I have to struggle all my life long ..." The Catechism teaches that our corrupt natures have to be forgiven, and are forgiven, for the sake of Christ’s perfect sacrifice. If our corrupt natures are not forgiven, we would go to hell because of them (even an infant who dies at birth and does not commit any actual sin), because we are responsible for them.

And so we must look at the whole matter from God’s point of view. God causes conception in the womb of our mothers. According to His eternal purpose, God gives to each man the gift of life in the world and a place in His creation. This is a great gift for which we ought to be thankful, for through the creation God Himself is to be known and worshipped. But we corrupted ourselves, first by our sin in Adam and then by our actual sins. We are, because of these sins, undeserving sinners.

But God is rich in mercy and grace towards all them that fear Him and forsake their sins. He gave His own Son who is our head and who accomplishes for us what we could never do. In Adam we fell. But in Christ we, undeserving sinners, are saved. So let us confess our original sin (Ps. 51:5), as well as our other sins, and receive forgiveness according to God’s tender mercies. Prof. Hanko

The Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven (2)

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).

Last time we saw that Christ gives to His church the two keys of preaching and discipline by which the church declaratively binds sins upon unbelievers and looses the sins of believers.

This official declaratory work of the church (key power), of course, is only rightly performed in true churches. A church only binds sin and looses sin in heaven (Matt. 16:19; 18:18) if its preaching and discipline is according to God’s Word. As the righteous Lord, Jesus Christ does not simply rubber stamp the unjust discipline of apostate churches. Nor does He bless their false gospel in the loosing of sins, for forgiveness is by faith alone in Christ alone and not through the works of the law (Gal. 1:6-9; 2:21; 3:10; 5:4). Nor does Jesus remit the sins of the impenitent at the word of a priest in the confessional through a few paternosters and hail Marys. During His earthly ministry, Christ condemned the scribes and Pharisees for their abuse of the keys of the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 23:13). When the Jews excommunicated the man born blind (John 9:22, 34), Jesus immediately came to him (35-38), bringing him to the green pastures, as one of His elect sheep (10:3-5, 9-11). Similarly, the discipline of the apostate church of Rome is worthless. Luther understood this and so he threw the papal bull of excommunication into a fire. Christ embraces His people who are cast out by false churches.

Are the keys rightly administered in your church? Is salvation by the grace of God alone preached and not salvation even in part by the free will of man? Is "all the counsel of God" taught (Acts 20:27)? Is discipline administered according to the Word for God’s glory, the holiness of the church and the salvation of the sinner? The keys of the kingdom are so important because it is by these means alone that the kingdom of heaven is officially opened and shut. Moreover, these two keys are the first and third marks (or distinguishing characteristics) of a true church (Belgic Confession 29). These keys are the worst keys to lose, for a church which loses the keys has lost its candlestick (Rev. 2:5) and has become a synagogue of Satan (2:9; 3:9).

For more on the keys, see Heidelberg Catechism, Q. & A. 83-85, below, or ask us for two free pamphlets: Prof. Hoeksema, "The Marks of the True Church," and Prof. Cammenga, "Zeal for God’s House: Motivation for Christian Discipline." Rev. Stewart

The Heidelberg Catechism (1563) on the Keys of the Kingdom

Q. 83. What are the keys of the kingdom of heaven?

Answer. The preaching of the holy gospel and Christian discipline, or excommunication out of the Christian church; by these two, the kingdom of heaven is opened to believers, and shut against unbelievers.

Q. 84. How is the kingdom of heaven opened and shut by the preaching of the holy gospel?

Answer. Thus: when according to the command of Christ, it is declared and publicly testified to all and every believer, that, whenever they receive the promise of the gospel by a true faith, all their sins are really forgiven them of God, for the sake of Christ’s merits; and on the contrary, when it is declared and testified to all unbelievers, and such as do not sincerely repent, that they stand exposed to the wrath of God, and eternal condemnation, so long as they are unconverted: according to which testimony of the gospel, God will judge them, both in this, and in the life to come.

Q. 85. How is the kingdom of heaven shut and opened by Christian discipline?

Answer. Thus: when according to the command of Christ, those, who under the name of Christians, maintain doctrines, or practices inconsistent therewith, and will not, after having been often brotherly admonished, renounce their errors and wicked course of life, are complained of to the church, or to those, who are thereunto appointed by the church; and if they despise their admonition, are by them forbidden the use of the sacraments; whereby they are excluded from the Christian church, and by God himself from the kingdom of Christ; and when they promise and show real amendment, are again received as members of Christ and his church.

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