Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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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; Acts 2:39).

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 natures.

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 us.

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