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July 2002, Volume IX, Issue 3


The More Sure Word (2)

In the last issue of the News we considered Peter’s eyewitness account of Christ’s transfiguration (II Peter 1:16-18). Peter states that the Scriptures are "a more sure word" (19) than even his experience on the "holy mount" (18). Now if Scripture (and the Old Testament at that) is more sure than seeing Christ transfigured in the presence of Moses and Elijah and hearing God’s voice from heaven, then Scripture may fairly be said to be more sure than anything else. Thus God’s Word is absolutely true and trustworthy.

Higher critics slander the Bible as being filled with myths and errors, as if it consists of "cunningly devised fables" (16). Evolutionists consign Genesis 1 to the realms of pre-scientific legends. Let God’s Word be true and unbelieving man a liar!

Many are convinced that the virgin Mary has appeared at Fatima or Lourdes. "People have seen her," they exclaim. Some claim that they receive direct revelation from God, outside of and apart from the Bible. "The Lord told me to do such and such," they declare. Others maintain that the worship of idols brings them nearer to God. "I have experienced this," they say, "and I ought to know!" But the Bible is more sure than man’s experiences and when the Bible contradicts man’s experiences, they are spurious.

We often exalt our feelings to a position above that of the Word. We say, "I won’t pray because I don’t feel like it." But the Bible says, "men ought always to pray, and not to faint" (Luke 18:1). We attend faithful preaching of the Word, but stop going because we think that we are getting nothing out of it. Scripture, however, commands us to "desire" the Word (I Peter 2:2). The Bible is more sure than our feelings and so the Bible, and not our feelings, must determine what we believe and do. If your feelings determine your obedience you will be crippled as a Christian.

Scripture is also more sure than even the church fathers and Christian leaders. Ministers and elders may err but the Bible never errs. Martin Luther rightly said that one layman armed with the Scriptures is more to be believed than all the popes and councils without the Scriptures. Nothing can be more sure than the Word of the true and living God who cannot lie. The Bible is "more sure" than all the learned books and all the religious feelings and experiences of man which are contrary to the Scriptures. Having this "more sure word ... ye do well that ye take heed" (19). Rev. Stewart

Seeking The Unity Of The Church (3)

I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:1-3).

We have discussed this passage in the last two issues of the News. A bit of review would not be out of place.

We have noted the following ideas expressed in this text: 1) In various ways, the Holy Spirit has made this admonition an extremely urgent one, one, therefore, to which we ought to give our careful attention. 2) The unity of the church is on the foreground here. That is, the unity of the church as it is manifested in the world in the local congregation and denomination. 3) This unity is not the false unity of modern ecumenism which seeks a unity on the lowest doctrinal level; it is a unity in Christ the Head of the church, and is, therefore, a unity of the mind of Christ and the will of Christ. 4) We do not create that unity; it is created by the Holy Spirit of Christ who works in the hearts of all the elect and who makes the church one in Christ as He leads into all truth and enables the saints to perform the will of Christ. Unity is therefore a gift that is given to us, a gift more precious than silver and gold. Our calling is to "keep the unity of the Spirit."

Our readers are urged to read the last two Newsletters to refresh their minds on what we have previously written.

In this issue we call attention to another aspect of the text, the further definition of unity which is given in two expressions: "forbearing one another in love" and keeping "the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." In other words, the unity which we are called to maintain and keep is a unity of love and peace.

Just a word or two about these two expressions is necessary.

The "love" which ought to characterize the saints who strive for the unity of the church is not the sentimental and emotional "love" which tolerates evil, refuses to condemn sin and overlooks or is indifferent to error and heresy.

All the love of the people of God is always, first of all, love for God and for His Christ. That means that genuine love is a profound desire to promote the glory of God, the honour of His name and the truth of His Word. It is a love that exalts Christ and His work above all else. This is not difficult to understand. If I should overhear some people speaking evil of my wife and would, in the name of love, tolerate such slander, one could justly conclude that I do not love my wife at all, simply because I do not care about how her honour and integrity is impugned. How much more is this not true of God’s glorious name! If we care not a whit how men speak evil of God by denying His truth and robbing Him of His glory, we cannot be said to love Him at all.

All our love for one another flows out of love for God. That is the basic principle of the ten commandments. We love one another, therefore, when, for God’s sake, we seek the spiritual welfare of our fellow saints, rebuking them for sin, urging them to confess their iniquities at the foot of the cross and encouraging and helping them in the difficult pathway of this life. We love one another when we bear one another’s burdens and help them on their way to heaven, for this is the fulfilment of the law of Christ (Gal. 5:14-15; 6:1-2).

Peace is a most blessed characteristic of the church. Think of the opposite. What can be worse than a church torn by discord, jealousy, disagreement and strife? It is a church which cannot go about its work and calling; a church which becomes a spectacle in the eyes of the world; a church which makes a mockery of the confession: "I believe in one, holy, catholic church.

So crucial is the calling to seek the peace of the church that Psalm 122 makes this peace a condition for our joy in worshipping in the house of the Lord: "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee. Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces. For my brethren and companions’ sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee. Because of the house of the Lord our God I will seek thy good" (6-9).

Peace is harmony among the saints who are joined together in one confession of the truth, one calling, one hope, one fellowship. It is the blessed assurance of Christ’s favour in harmony with His truth and will.

A unity of love and peace! How greatly that is to be desired in the church of our Lord Jesus Christ! That unity we are called to keep.

I want, at this point, to emphasize the admonition itself and what precisely this calling is which comes to us.

The text itself gives us help in this matter. It speaks of keeping that unity of the Spirit "with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another."

There is much here to discuss. We shall look at these different expressions in the next issue or two of the News. Prof. Hanko

Jehovah and Allah

One of our readers asks, "Is the god of the Koran the same as the God of the Old Testament? The writer does not think so, but the general public and sometimes ‘church people’ believe they are one and the same differing only in name."

Formally, there seem to be a lot of similarities between Jehovah of the Old Testament (and New Testament) and Allah of the Koran. To both are ascribed similar characteristics (righteousness, mercy, truth etc.) and similar roles (creator, sustainer, judge etc.) but underneath these apparent similarities lie deep and irreconcilable differences.

Consider the divine unity: Jehovah is emphatically affirmed to be one (Deut. 6:4) and so is Allah. But what kind of oneness is spoken of? Is it strictly a mathematical kind of unity or is it a more complex unity? The unity of Jehovah in His being does not exclude but rather requires His threeness in persons (cf. Gen. 1:26; Isa. 6:8; 63:9-10). Allah is one in being and in person. Again while both Jehovah and Allah are said to create, the question is how do they create? Only Jehovah creates by His Word ("and God said;" Gen. 1:3 etc.) and Spirit (Gen. 1:2; Ps. 33:6, 9). The Triune Jehovah differs from Allah also in the divine work of Providence. Jehovah leads and guides His people by His "Angel" in whom is His "name" (Ex. 23:20-23). The Old Testament prophesies of Jehovah’s rule through One who is also God (Ps. 110:1; Dan. 7:13-14), the coming Messiah (Ps. 2:2, 6-12). This is totally contrary to Allah’s government in the Koran.

Both Jehovah and Allah are presented as high and lifted up, but Allah’s transcendence is at the expense of his nearness. As one scholar put it, "Islam not only believes in the hiddenness of [Allah], but, more seriously, in the impossibility of knowing [him]. The most that can be said is that believers know [his] will which [he] has revealed to them." On the other hand, true Christians not only know Jehovah’s will but they know Him, the Triune God of the Bible through the mediation of Jesus Christ (Ex. 23:21; John 17:3) and the internal illumination of the Holy Spirit (Prov. 1:23; I Cor. 2:10-16). Hence Moses’ rhetorical question: "What nation is there so great, that hath God so nigh unto them?" (Deut. 4:7).

Both Jehovah and Allah are said to be merciful and to forgive sin. But how do they forgive sin? The Old Testament sacrifices point to the atoning death of the incarnate Son of God for all His elect (Isa. 53). The Koran denies Christ’s incarnation, and most Muslims believe that Judas was put on the cross in the place of Christ. Thus Christ did not make atonement for our sins, nor was He raised from the dead. Islam makes no provision for sin. Salvation is based on free will and salvation by works including complete surrender to the will of Allah. Islam knows nothing of God’s eternal election of His people in Christ, substitutionary atonement, justification by faith alone, assurance of salvation and covenant fellowship with the Triune God through Christ. Jesus, who is "Jehovah salvation" (cf. Matt. 1:21), is the only way to Jehovah (John 14:6), the jealous God who will not give His glory to another (Isa. 42:8). Rev. Stewart

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