Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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July 2008 • Volume XII, Issue 3


Election, the 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. Rev. Stewart

Lending and Expecting No Repayment (3)

I wrote an answer in the last two issues of the News 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 or not.

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 immediate needs.

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 around.

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 "riches."

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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