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.
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,
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
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."
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
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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