July 2008 • Volume XII, Issue 3
Fountain of the Church’s Blessings (2)
Having looked at the various blessings that we
receive according to election in the last News, we now need to
consider their qualities. The blessings which flow from the fountain of
election are heavenly and spiritual. All believers are not promised
physical healing in this life or political dominion or vast hordes of
money. We are promised "all spiritual blessings in heavenly
places" (Eph. 1:3).
These blessings are also "in Christ" (3). The elect
believer is in Christ, united to Him by the Holy Spirit. Being united
with the blessed One, we share in His blessedness. He merited blessings
for us, and in Him we receive these spiritual and heavenly blessings by
faith. All of them! For God "hath blessed us with all
spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ" (3).
Since all the elect receive all spiritual and
heavenly blessings in Christ, all God’s people are equal in the office
of believer. All are prophets because we know and confess the mystery of
God’s eternal purpose: to unite all things in heaven and earth in Christ
(8-10). All are priests because we are holy, consecrated to our heavenly
Father (4). All are kings because we are adopted as children of the Lord
God (5). Thus election is the fountain of this spiritual blessing too:
our being in the office of believer, as prophets, priests and kings.
There are also some divine gifts that not all the
elect receive. These are not the ones listed in Ephesians 1. First,
there are the special offices in the church. God has eternally
predestined some men in His grace to serve as deacons, elders or
ministers, for He "worketh all things after the counsel of his own will"
(11). Second, there are spiritual gifts. These too are sovereignly
administered such that some elect saints receive more gifts than others
(Rom. 12:6; I Cor. 12:11). Of course, the gifts are useful only in so
far as they serve the edification of the body.
Also, although all the elect receive all spiritual
blessings in Christ, some of these vary in degree among the elect. While
all elect believers are sanctified, there are degrees of sanctification
in this life.
Thus God’s sovereign election determines the church’s
existence, continuance, location, size and membership (News
XI:23-XII:1), plus all the church’s spiritual blessings (News
XII:2), as well as the degree of our sanctification and the distribution
of special office-bearers and spiritual gifts in the church. From top to
bottom, the church is controlled and shaped by God’s eternal election.
Do you see it, dear saint? The true church, as
organism and institute, is wholly of God, created, gathered, preserved
and glorified solely by His sovereign will, so that the church and every
member must glory in the electing God! Rest in this truth of election!
Labour, pray, worship and witness in the light of it!
But why is election the heart, source and fountain of
the church and all her blessings? Why is election "the fountain of every
saving good" (Canons I:9)? Because God Himself is "the
overflowing fountain of all good" (Belgic Confession
1). Election is the fountain of the church and all her blessings.
The electing God is the fountain of the church and all her
blessings. God is the fountain of the church and all her
blessings. These last three sentences are essentially saying the same
thing. Thus to attack election is not only to attack the heart of the
church (cor ecclesiae), but it is also a wicked, futile attack on
the heart of God Himself, a heart filled with love for His dear church
for which He sent His Son to die on the cross.
Election is also the fountain of the church’s four
blessed attributes: unity, holiness, catholicity and apostolicity. The
church is holy because it was "chosen … before the foundation of the
world, that we should be holy" (Eph. 1:4). Ephesians chapters 4-6
describe the holy life of the church. The church is apostolic because it
is elected to faith (Acts 13:48) and true faith receives apostolic
doctrine (Eph. 2:20). The church is catholic because it consists of Jews
and Gentiles (2:11-22; 3:6), "according to the eternal purpose which
[God] purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord" (11). The church is one because
God "hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world,
that we should be holy" (1:4). This blessed unity of Christ’s
body, the church, is explained more fully in Ephesians 4:1-16.
Thus the church is one, holy, catholic and apostolic
because of her eternal election. More particularly, the church has these
four attributes because it is chosen in Christ (1:4). Christ is
holy (totally devoted to the Father), apostolic (revealed in sacred
Scripture and not in the vain imaginations of men), catholic (the
Saviour of the world and not just Jews or people of a particular class
or age) and one (the incarnate Son of God). Being eternally chosen in
Christ and united to Him by His Spirit, the church must be and is one,
holy, catholic and apostolic. This fits perfectly with the theme of
Ephesians: the church as the body of Christ.
The church, therefore, is to confess and preach its
four attributes. It must teach that it is one, holy, catholic and
apostolic according to God’s eternal election in Christ. Where
this preaching is found and believed and obeyed, there the four
attributes of the church are clearly seen, and there Christ is
spiritually present reigning over and blessing His beloved people.
Lending and Expecting No
I wrote an answer in the last two issues of the
to a question concerning borrowing and lending. The question was
particularly directed to Luke 6:31-36, especially verse 35. The reader
has responded to that article with some additional observations, which,
while not exactly questions, are nevertheless of sufficient importance
to include in this issue of the News.
He wrote about a man who lends money to another, but
who does so without expecting repayment. The reader believes that the
lender ought also to inform the borrower that he does not expect
repayment. With this I agree.
Furthermore, the reader observes that "a Christian is
obliged to pay back a loan or debt." With this I am also in complete
agreement. Scripture emphatically lays down the obligation: "Owe no man
anything, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath
fulfilled the law" (Rom. 13:8). This text lays down a fundamental
principle governing the Christian’s life. Scripture obligates us to pay
back our debts. Not to do this is sinful. Even a man who declares
bankruptcy may not use the laws governing bankruptcy to escape his
debts. The only debt we owe to others (and it is a debt we owe
continuously) is to love one another.
On the one hand, therefore, the lender may not
require repayment; on the other hand, the borrower must repay. In the
church, these things work out well—or at least ought to work themselves
out without any problem. But in the world it is quite a different story.
I mention this because the Christian, if he lends money to an
unbeliever, must not even then expect repayment, while the wicked person
is still under divine obligation to repay the loan, whether he does so
Another important point enters here. The reader
observed correctly that the matter of lending in Luke 6 is discussed in
a larger context that includes verses 31-36. Here we are called to love
our neighbours and to do so even if they are our enemies. I have
discussed this obligation of the Christian various times in earlier
News, and will not do so now. Here I want only to remind our readers
that to love our neighbour, while it requires that we do good to them in
all their needs, fundamentally requires of us that we seek their
salvation. That means that we give anything our neighbour needs without
hesitation, but in the name of Christ. That is, we tell our neighbours
that they are obligated to repent of their sins and believe in Christ;
and that we give them what they need because God has given us,
undeserving sinners, far more than we ask or think.
The observation of the reader that "it seems that the
more money people have the more likely they are not to want to fulfil
the obligations of this verse [Luke 6:35]" is true. I know some saints
in Myanmar who belong to a congregation in the Yangon area. This is in
the region hit by Cyclone Nargis (2 May, 2008) and three families of the
church lost everything they had, while others suffered losses as well,
but not as serious. It must be understood that these people who lost all
their possessions had nothing much to begin with: a bamboo shack, a
couple of pieces of furniture—usually nothing more than boxes—and only
enough food to last them, at a near starvation level, for one day. When
telephone contact was made, the question was put to their pastor: What
are your most urgent needs? His answer was that the whole congregation
was sharing what they had with all the others, and that, at least for
the present, they were getting by. So, he concluded, they had no
It is a strange and inexplicable perversion in our
thinking and acting that the less we have, the more generous we are;
while the more we have, the more we want and the greater is our
reluctance to share what we have with others. This is a cruel
manifestation of our remaining sin. One would think, looking at the
matter objectively, that the situation would be just the other way
It is, however, true that riches are a deadly trap.
One need only read I Timothy 6:6-10 to be shaken in one’s deepest being
by our abundance of earthly things. We ought to understand, I think,
that we are "rich" when we have more than we need for the day. We are
commanded to pray each day for our daily bread. My father used to tell
us when we were children at home, "You must pray for your daily bread,
but you may not pray for peanut butter on it. If the Lord gives you
peanut butter, then be thankful, but you must limit your prayer to
bread." He made his point. Anything more than what we may ask for is
It is not a sin in itself to have an abundance of
earthly things. These things are gifts of God, the overflowing fountain
of all good. They are to be enjoyed as His gifts, and not to be despised
with some sort of "holy" disdain, for they are to be sanctified by the
Word of God and prayer (I Tim. 4:4-5).
These gifts of God are never "ours" to do with as we
please, for we are only stewards and "The earth is the Lord’s, and the
fulness thereof" (Ps. 24:1). They are all to be used to glorify Him and
as means by which we serve Him. The principle of the kingdom of heaven
is: "seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness" (Matt.
6:33). The word "first" here is not to be interpreted as number 1 in a
long list of things we seek; Jesus means "first" as a fundamental
principle of our lives, which governs and controls all we do.
Nor is it unworthy of our notice that the Lord speaks
these words in connection with our calling not to worry about what we
shall eat or what we shall drink or wherewithal we shall be clothed.
Wicked people seek these things. Our heavenly Father knows what we need
and is able to supply our every need (25-34).
We will, I am sure, object that the stringent demands
of the kingdom are impossible to observe. We can coast along in our own
"ordinary" way. But: 1) The Lord commands us to do these things. 2) We
are citizens of the kingdom of heaven and we have the grace to be
obedient. 3) Riches are a snare, and when they are such: "go and sell
that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in
heaven: and come and follow me" (Matt. 19:21). Prof. Hanko
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