Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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July 2004, Volume X, Issue 3


Holding the Traditions (4)

II Thessalonians 2:15 declares, "Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught." Since the word with which this text begins translates two Greek words which both mean "therefore," it is very closely related to the preceding verses.

All the people of God are commanded to hold the faithful traditions because, negatively, this is the way of avoiding destruction (10-12). There is vast apostasy in the professing churches and "the falling away" is coming (3; the Greek has the article "the"). The man of sin will say that he is God (4). He will work miracles (9) and be incredibly deceptive (10) and most in the church will be fooled (4). Moreover, God will send "strong delusion" (11). How then will we stand? Only by holding fast to the truth! Those who do not hold fast to the biblical traditions will be deceived and perish.

True, the manifestation of the man of sin may not happen in our day, though it might, since no one knows when he will be "revealed" (3). But the apostle teaches that "the mystery of iniquity doth already work" (7). Many today are falling for false doctrine. Unbiblical worship corrupts many churches. Millions are swept away by the false miracles of Roman Catholicism and of charismaticism, all over the world. What will happen when real miracles are wrought with "all power" "after the working of Satan" (9) "with all deceivableness of unrighteousness" (10)?

Though they may say that they believe the truth, many do not receive "the love of the truth" (10) and so do not actually believe the truth (12). Instead, they believe "the lie" (11; the Greek has the article "the") and thus they shall be "damned" (12).

The imperatives, "stand fast" and "hold," are in the present tense. Thus, right now, you must cling to the truth as it is developed through the NT age. This includes holding fast to the biblical doctrine of the last times (eschatology) as taught in II Thessalonians 2 and elsewhere, for even in apostolic days there was false teaching on eschatology which deceived and unsettled people (1-3).

Not only must the professing Christian hold fast to biblical traditions lest he perish (10-12), but this adherence to the truth is also the way in which God saves us. God’s "beloved" people are "chosen" "from the beginning," "called," sanctified and glorified (13-14). But God has ordained that the way of salvation (and the blessed experience of salvation) is the way of "belief of the truth" and no other way (14). "Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught" (15). Rev. Stewart

Rahab's Lie (1)

By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace (Heb. 11:31). Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? (James 2:25).

A reader of the News asks, "Why [in these passages] is Rahab commended for lying about the Hebrew spies?"

This is an interesting question, which has generated a lot of debate. The debate centres in the question: Does Scripture approve of lying in some circumstances? Particularly, when the cause of God is being threatened?

The history of Rahab, briefly, is this. After forty years of wandering in the wilderness, the nation of Israel was poised to begin the conquest of Canaan. Jericho, just west of the Jordan, was the most difficult city in Canaan to capture, for it was a mighty fortress with thick walls and iron gates. It was the key to the whole land. If Israel could not capture Jericho, its efforts to conquer the land were futile. If Jericho fell to the Israelites, this would be a token from God that He fought for them and would presently give them the land He had promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

In preparation for war against the city, Joshua sent two spies to enter Jericho and learn the state of the city, the strength of its walls, and anything else which would be of value for the Israelites in their proposed campaign.

The spies entered the city and made their way to the house of Rahab, a prostitute, who lived on the wall of the city. Their presence in the city and their entrance into Rahab’s house were noticed, and the police were sent to capture them. Rahab admitted that they had been there, but that they had already left and were headed for the River Jordan, where, if soldiers were immediately sent, they could be captured. However, she had hidden the spies on the roof of her house under some flax. After sending the police away on a wild goose chase, she spoke with the spies and helped them escape from the city by letting them down the wall with a scarlet rope. Her reason for aiding the spies, and also for lying to the police was her determination to cast her lot with the people of Israel. (The entire narrative is found in Joshua 2.)

There are other instances of such lies in Scripture. David feigned madness when he was in the land of the Philistines during his flight from murderous Saul. He was brought before Achish, the king of Gath (I Sam. 21:10-15). David writes of this and God’s deliverance from the hand of Achish in Psalm 56.

More familiar is the lie which the midwives in Egypt told Pharaoh’s servants. Pharaoh had commanded that all the male children of the Israelites be killed. The midwives did not obey Pharaoh, for they feared God. When questioned about their failures, they lied by telling the police that the Hebrew women were not very long in labour and that the children were born before the midwives could get there. God dealt well with the midwives because they feared Him (Ex. 1).

In ordering the murder of all the male babies Pharaoh sought to destroy Israel as a separate people and force the nation to amalgamate with the Egyptians, for the daughters of Israel would be forced to marry Egyptian men. Behind that plot was the plot of Satan to destroy Christ, for Christ, Satan knew, was destined to be born of Israel.

These and other instances in Scripture have led some to conclude that under certain circumstances God permits His people to lie. Usually, so it is argued, such a lie is justified when the welfare of God’s people is at stake. Such a concern for the cause of God led Rahab and the midwives to resort to lies to cover their deeds.

Many argue that in times of war, when a nation is threatened by an aggressor it is legitimate to tells lies to help defeat the conquering power. This argument was used, for example, during the Nazi occupation of mainland Europe. Downed aviators and Jews were hid by those who were willing to risk their lives to save others. If Gestapo agents came to the doors of such homes in which refugees were hidden, it was considered lawful to lie to them to save those they were hiding.

There is agreement among Christians that ordinarily lying is forbidden by the ninth commandment and by other injunctions in Scripture such as Ephesians 4:15. The question is: Are there circumstances in which Scripture permits lying?

While the questioner, quoted above, says that Scripture condones the lie of Rahab, this is not really true. Nowhere in Scripture does one find approval of any lying at all. Exodus 1 does not approve the lie of the midwives; it expresses approval of their fear of God (17, 20-21). Hebrews 11:31 does not express approval of Rahab’s lie, but commends her faith by which she received the spies in peace. That is, because of her faith that God was with Israel and that Israel would ultimately prevail against Jericho, she cooperated with the spies rather than turning them over to the police. Nor does the narrative in Joshua 2 say one word of approval of Rahab’s lie.

The same is true of James 2. Rahab is said to be justified because she received the spies and sent them out another way. By this act she cast her lot with God’s people in whom lived the hope of the coming of the Messiah.

I do not know of a single place in Scripture where a lie is condoned. In other words, that Scripture approves of the lie of Rahab (and the lie of the midwives) is an argument from silence. Scripture does not condemn her lie in so many words. Rather, Scripture speaks of her faith manifested in her works. From Scripture’s silence concerning the sin of the lie, one concludes that Scripture approves.

But we must examine this matter a bit more in our next News. Prof. H. Hanko

Christ’s Will to Gather Jerusalem’s Children (1)

A reader asks for the explanation of Christ’s words in Matthew 23:37: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!"

This text has been abused by Pelagians, Semi-Pelagians, Arminians and Well-Meant Offer men to teach that God desires to save all the people of Jerusalem (and, by extension, everybody in the world) but many of them perish. "See," the Well-Meant Offer men say, "Christ wished to save Jerusalem, but they would not let Him. Here is a universal desire of God for the salvation of everybody." The Arminians go a step further: "Thus there is no reprobation of some and no election of others. Also God’s grace must be resistible, for, though God wanted to save everybody, man’s will stopped Him."

However, Christ does not say that He willed to gather Jerusalem but Jerusalem resisted. Nor does He say that He willed to gather Jerusalem’s children but Jerusalem’s children resisted. Christ says that He willed to gather Jerusalem’s children but Jerusalem resisted. Christ speaks here of two different groups: Jerusalem and Jerusalem’s children. He says different things about these two groups: Jerusalem killed and stoned God’s prophets and messengers; Christ willed to gather Jerusalem’s children; Jerusalem did not will that Christ gather Jerusalem’s children.

What is meant by Jerusalem here? Jerusalem refers to the religious leaders of Israel, the scribes and Pharisees. Read Matthew 23; Christ denounces the "scribes and Pharisees [as] hypocrites" (cf. esp. 13, 14, 15, 23, 25, 27, 29). They are Jerusalem, as the religious representatives of the people. This form of speech is used frequently, for example, "Washington" is often used for the political leaders of the US.

Jerusalem’s children are not the leaders but those led, the common people. Like children, the common people were not learned and needed religious guidance. They are the ones Christ willed to gather under His wings of salvation (cf. Ps. 17:8; 91:4). To speak even more precisely, they are the true children of the heavenly Jerusalem (Gal. 4:26), the ones whom the Son of man "came to seek and to save" (Luke 19:10), the ones given to Christ by His Father (John 6:37, 39).

Christ willed to save Jerusalem’s children but Jerusalem (the religious leaders) did not will it. This does not mean that they thwarted Christ’s will. After Christ says that He willed to gather Jerusalem’s children, He does not say that they thwarted Him. Instead, He says, "ye would not!" These words alone do not say whether or not the scribes and Pharisees managed to stop Christ gathering His children. Instead, they expose the wickedness of the religious leaders. Their whole calling, as teachers in God’s church, was to work for the gathering of God’s children. But when the Messiah came to gather His children, they opposed His work: "ye would not!" No wonder Christ cursed them: "Behold, your house is left unto you desolate" (Matt. 23:38). Rev. Stewart

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