July 2011 • Volume XIII, Issue 15
Glorious Things Spoken of the Church (2)
The glorious elevation, mighty defence and unshakeable firmness of
Jerusalem (Ps. 87:1) refer to Jesus Christ who is God’s foundation of
the church. "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid,
which is Jesus Christ" (I Cor. 3:11). The church is established in the
blood of her crucified head and Saviour. Thus the church’s
foundation can also be said to be her eternal election in Christ, for
election and Christ are inseparably connected (Eph. 1:4). The church
is chosen in the Lord Jesus and is, therefore, unshakeable in God’s
eternal purpose of election. "Nevertheless the foundation of God
standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his"
(II Tim. 2:19).
Moreover, the church is founded in God’s gracious covenant with His
elect in Christ. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit purposed to reveal
the rich fellowship of the Trinity with a people redeemed in our
Saviour’s blood. This is "an everlasting covenant, ordered in all
things, and sure" (II Sam. 23:5). God has promised and sworn an oath
to be our God and the God of our seed forever and ever (Gen. 17:7;
Furthermore, God’s eternal election and covenant in Christ is rooted
in the glorious nature and attributes of God. The foundation of the
church is the infinite and everlasting mercy, faithfulness,
righteousness, power, holiness, love, wisdom and truth of God!
What a foundation for the church! How high are the mountains on which
she is built: the lofty regions of eternity in Christ; the very mind
and heart of God—infinitely high! Far higher than the vain
speculations of the greatest philosophers!
What a defence these mountains are! The cross of Christ is our refuge
and strong tower! Our battlements are the truth and goodness of God!
We are protected by an unconditional covenant in Christ. God promises
His church, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. I am thy
defence and shield."
Let us marvel at the firmness of the church. She has been gathered and
defended from Genesis 3 to the present day and to the return of
Christ, and she will live with the Triune God forever. World empires
have fallen—the Babylonian empire, the Medeo-Persian empire, the Greek
empire, the Roman empire, the Mongolian empire, the British empire,
the Napoleonic empire, etc.—but the church stands with a firmness
greater than all the mountains of the earth.
All of this is despite the fact that the church of the Lord
Jesus has great enemies: the world, the flesh and the devil; the pagan
religions, the false church and anti-Christian states; persecution,
heresy and schism. God’s eternal covenant purpose in Christ with His
church stands firm. "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and
the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance" (Ps. 33:12)!
"Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God" (87:3). "Glorious"
means weighty, heavy with significance and importance. It also carries
the idea of brilliance and effulgence, that which shines divine
illumination into our hearts and minds. The weight and brilliance or
glory of the church is a derived weight or brilliance or glory, that
of her head, Jesus Christ, in whose face shines the glory of God (II
Cor. 4:4, 6).
"The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of
Jacob" (Ps. 87:2). The Lord has no love for the reprobate wicked: "The
Lord trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence
his soul hateth" (11:5). Against them "the wrath of God is revealed
from heaven" (Rom. 1:18). But God does love His people Israel, in
Naphtali and Issachar and Judah and Reuben, etc., from Dan to
Beersheba. Yet not every individual, ethnic Jew, "For they are not all
Israel, which are of Israel" (9:6). In the New Testament age, when the
church is catholic or universal, Jehovah loves His elect in Christ
wherever they are, whether Jew or Gentile.
Returning to the Old Testament imagery in Psalm 87, the Lord loves
Jerusalem and Zion more than any town or mountain in Israel (2), never
mind elsewhere in the world. Jerusalem/Zion is elevated and especially
holy (1). It was particularly chosen by God as the capital city and
location of the throne of David and the site of the temple with its
ark, priesthood, sacrifices and worship (78:67-72). Through the
"gates" of Jerusalem/Zion, the people of God would go in and out on
pilgrimage and to praise the Lord (87:2).
In the New Testament age, God especially loves His saints as gathered
together for public worship on the Lord’s Day—more than in our homes
or at work or university, and more than through the week. Why? Because
in the church’s Sabbath services, all the saints are together for the
one great purpose of praising our covenant God and fellowshipping with
one another. The Word of the Lord is read and preached reverently and
officially. Prayer is offered by the whole congregation through Jesus
Christ our mediator. Collections are made for the advance of Christ’s
kingdom and the welfare of the saints. The inspired Psalms are sung
with joy and understanding (47:7). The church collectively confesses
its sins and receives God’s rich blessing in faith. Graces are
exercised, and we and our children draw near to Jehovah in adoration.
Thus it is no surprise that "The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more
than all the dwellings of Jacob. Glorious things are spoken of thee
[by Jehovah, by Christ, by the holy angels and by the saints], O city
of God" (87:2-3)!
Therefore, it is no wonder that Satan especially attacks the
(institute) church. He seeks to weaken the church by undermining
biblical and Reformed preaching, doctrine, creeds, worship, government
and discipline. He seeks the apostasy and overthrow of faithful
churches because he knows that the church is "the pillar and ground of
the truth" (I Tim. 3:15), for it holds up and teaches God’s glorious
Word in Jesus Christ. Rev. Stewart
The Only Begotten Son of God
Question: "If John 10:30 (‘I and my Father are one’) be true, and it
is, how can the Son be begotten?"
It seems to me that I have been getting many questions on this topic
this last half year or so. Some ask about the relation between the three
Persons of the Trinity; some ask about the relation between Christ and
God; some ask about the relation between Christ and the first Person of
the Trinity. And there are other questions. Some have come up in
connection with what I wrote in my book,
When You Pray (available from the CPRC Bookstore for £14.30,
including P&P), in which I made the point that we are to pray to the
Triune God in the name of Christ our mediator.
I will try to spell out some of these things in answer to the above
question, although I hope our readers understand that the truths of the
Trinity and of Christ are truths concerning the infinite God, who is far
above us. We can only say what Scripture says.
First of all, concerning the text that the questioner quotes, our Lord
is teaching in this passage the great truth of the preservation of the
saints. His sheep are safe because no one can take them from His
Father’s hand, and no one can take them from His hand (28-29). But the
Lord would have us know that to be safe in the Father’s hand is the same
as being safe in Christ’s hand, for "I and my Father are one" (30).
When the Lord says that He and His Father are one, He emphasizes
strongly His divine nature. Scripture teaches that, though the second
Person of the Trinity took on our flesh and became like us in all things
except our sin, He is also and at the same time divine. He is divine
because He is the second Person of the holy Trinity and the second
Person of the holy Trinity is the Person of Christ’s divine and human
But Christ is wholly and fully divine, even as He is wholly and fully
human. He united the entire divine being to His human nature. All the
divine attributes belong to Christ as well, while He remains fully
human. Hence He and His Father are one. They are both God. As the
Nicene Creed puts it, Christ is "true God of true God."
When Christ speaks in John 10:30 of His Father, He is referring not to
the first Person of the Trinity but to the Triune God. And herein lies
the difficulty for so many people, it seems. I will try to explain.
The doctrine of the Trinity means, as we all know and believe, and as
the church has confessed from ancient times, God is one in essence and
three in Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is a doctrine
fundamental to the Christian faith and is taught in the post-Reformation
creeds, such as the Belgic Confession, the Westminster
Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism, as well as in the
Nicene Creed and the Athanasian Creed. No one can deny this
truth and be saved.
Further, within the Triune life of God the three Persons are related
to each other. This also is a fundamental truth of the Christian faith
and is taught in all the creeds mentioned above. The relation between
the Father and Son is one of generation: The Father begets the Son, and
the Son is begotten by the Father. The relation between the Father and
the Son on the one hand and the Holy Spirit on the other hand is a
relation of procession: The Father and the Son "breathe out" the Holy
Spirit, and the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.
God has determined eternally to reveal Himself. The key word is
"reveal." He reveals Himself in all His infinitely perfect perfection
and blessedness. But He also reveals Himself as the Triune God, and He
reveals the relationships that bind the three Persons of the Trinity
within the one divine essence.
Let it be clearly understood: the Triune God reveals Himself.
Revelation is an act of all three Persons within the unity of the divine
essence. Revelation is not the work of one Person to the exclusion of
the others. Nor is part of revelation the work of the first Person, part
of revelation the work of the second Person and part of revelation the
work of the third Person. All the works of God are the works of the
Triune God and are, therefore, the works of all three Persons.
Revelation of the Trinity is in Christ and by means of the Spirit of
Christ. The Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is, as the one true
God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Psalm 2:7; 110:1; Luke 1:35;
Acts 13:33; Rom. 1:4).
You say, "Yes, but that makes Christ His own Father." You are correct,
but is this surprising? God not only is the Father of Christ who caused
conception and birth in and from the womb of the Virgin Mary, but
Christ, willingly and as an act of His own, took on our human nature.
Christ prayed to the Triune God and thus prayed to Himself. Christ bore
the wrath of God, but surely not the wrath only of the first Person of
the Trinity. Christ committed Himself into the hands of His Father, but
surely not into the hands merely of the first Person of the Trinity.
Christ bore the wrath of the Triune God, but He took hold of that wrath
Himself and brought it upon Himself. In this sense, there is no
distinction between the active and passive suffering of Christ. He
walked into hell; He built an altar in hell; He laid Himself on that
altar; He plunged the knife of the wrath of the Triune God into His own
heart. And, although surely the Triune God raised Christ from the dead,
so also Christ arose by His own might! By His own power, He broke the
chains of death and brought Himself out of the grave.
The same is true of the Holy Spirit. He is the third Person of the
Trinity who came upon Christ at His baptism, who sustained Him in His
temptations and suffering, who raised Him from the dead, who was given
to Christ by the Triune God and who is poured out so that He (as an act
of His own, though sent by the Father through Christ) comes to dwell in
I have no space to show you the biblical proof for all this, but you
may ask me for it, if you so desire. It, nevertheless, seems to be so
obvious that every student of Scripture has to be aware of the many
passages of the Word of God that teach these things. But if any of you
have more questions, please write to me. Prof. Hanko
The 10 CDs of
"The Holy Trinity (II)" on Belgic Confession 9-11, explaining
scriptural proofs for the blessed Trinity (4 classes), the eternal
generation of the Son (4 classes) and the personality and procession of
the Holy Spirit (2 classes), are available in an attractive box set from
the CPRC Bookstore for £12 (inc. P&P).
If you would like to receive the Covenant Reformed News
free by e-mail each month (and/or by post, if you are in the UK),
please contact Rev. Stewart and
we will gladly send it to you