Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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June 2002, Volume IX, Issue 2


The More Sure Word (1)

Last time we saw that the Bible is God’s mighty sledgehammer which He uses to shatter the rock in pieces (Jer. 23:29). Over the next few months we shall consider some of the qualities of the Holy Scriptures from the book of II Peter.

In II Peter 1:16-18, Peter writes about Christ’s transfiguration. The effulgence of Christ’s face and garments speak of the "majesty" (16) and "honour and glory" (17) that is His as the incarnate Son of God (cf. 17). This majesty, honour and glory shall also be manifest at Christ’s second "coming" (16).

Peter tells us that he was an eyewitness (16) of Christ’s transfiguration. He saw Christ being transfigured with His own eyes (16-17). He heard, with his own ears, the voice from the cloud, saying, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased" (17). Peter was a credible witness. He had preached of Christ’s glory for thirty or so years and was willing to die in this faith (13-15).

There are only two options. Either Peter (and Matthew, Mark and Luke who record Christ’s transfiguration in their gospel accounts) made the story up simply in order to magnify Jesus—and then the scoffers whom Peter was opposing were right, the transfiguration is only a "cunningly devised" fable (16)—or Peter is telling the truth. By the Holy Spirit, we receive Peter’s eyewitness testimony as trustworthy and sure.

But, writes Peter, "We have also a more sure word of prophecy" (19). Peter’s eyewitness account is sure, but there is another testimony which is even more sure. This is the "word of prophecy" (19) or "scripture" (20), namely the Old Testament, especially, in this context, as it prophesies Christ’s glorious second coming.

How is it that the Old Testament is more sure than Peter’s witness of Christ’s glory at His transfiguration? Perhaps there were some who might still have had some doubts regarding Peter’s memory, for example, that there was some detail which he had forgotten or recalled incorrectly. On the other hand, there are absolutely no possible mistakes in Scripture. Scripture was infallibly written by men borne along by the Holy Spirit (21), so the very idea that it could err is to be abominated. Therefore no matter how sure Peter’s recollection was—and since it was recorded in the Bible it must have been completely accurate!—the Scriptures are even more sure. If Peter wanted to consider Christ’s glory, he could recall that day on the holy mount or he could turn to the law and the prophets. For Peter, although he trusted his recollection of that wonderful day, the Scriptures were even more sure. We need this hearty confidence in the Scriptures too, as we shall see next time. Rev. Stewart

Seeking The Unity Of The Church (2)

I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:1-3).

We began a discussion of this passage of God’s Word in the last News. At that time we stressed the urgency of this admonition of the Word of God. It is an urgency that ought to make an impression upon each one of us, so that we are driven by the command of the Lord Himself, who is the Head of His church, to obey.

We also noted that the unity of which the apostle speaks is a unity of the church as it comes to manifestation in the world in congregations and denominations. That places upon each one who claims to be a member of the church of Christ a responsibility to heed this word of Christ within the congregation and/or denomination of which he or she is a member.

The unity of the church is not something which we create ourselves. It is a unity which is created by Christ, the Head of the church, through His Spirit. Hence, this unity is called in the text "the unity of the Spirit;" i.e., the unity which the Spirit has given to the church.

This truth that unity is a gift of Christ Himself is further emphasized in the text by the words "walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called." Christ creates, through His Spirit, this unity by His efficacious call. The efficacious call comes through the gospel, and is worked in the hearts of the elect by the Holy Spirit. The power of the gospel call is in the work of the Spirit, who calls sovereignly and irresistibly out of the darkness of sin and death into fellowship with Christ. We, Paul says, have been called into that fellowship of the saints with Christ. We must now walk worthy of that calling.

That unity of the church which the Spirit graciously works within the hearts of the elect is the unity of Christ Himself. Concretely, that means, as Paul goes on to say in the verses that follow, that Christ as the Head of the church, is also the mind and the will of the body, for the mind and will are in the head.

The mind of Christ is revealed in the Scriptures. It is called "the unity of the faith" (5, 13) and "of the knowledge of the Son of God" (13). Because this unity is that of the truth as it is in Christ, it is important that we "be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine" (14). It is a unity of one confession of the truth.

The principle error of modern ecumenism is that it seeks a unity other than a unity in the truth. In its vain and wicked pursuit of mere outward unity (as the Roman church possesses) it strives for the lowest common denominator of doctrine so that many diverse doctrines and various forms of unbelief may be united under one ecclesiastical roof. Such is not the unity of Christ.

This unity is also a unity of Christ’s will. That is, Christ’s will is the norm for all the life of God’s people. They are one in that they walk together in obedience to Christ, as servants of Christ, bowing in humble service to His will and confessing His name in a world of sin and darkness.

But since this unity is the unity of the mind of Christ, it is also a unity of humility. Paul speaks of this in Philippians 2:3-4: "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others." And then that verse that comes battering at our hearts: "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus ..." (5). What mind was in Christ Jesus? It is described in what follows in the most powerful passage in all Scripture which describes our Lord’s humiliation. Read it and weep.

That unity is given as a gift. It is a costly gift, purchased with the blood of the Son of God. It is a gift graciously given, for we have done nothing at all to deserve it. It is a gift which is a treasure of more worth and value than any earthly possession. It is a gift which, while we possess it already in this life, will be ours forever and ever, world without end, for it will endure into eternity. It is a gift which, when it is present in the church, makes life in the church happy and blessed; but when it is not present in the church, brings misery, grief, suffering and distress.

We are, says, the apostle to endeavour to keep that unity. Not to create it! To keep it! To keep what has been given us. It is a pearl of great price. It is a treasure worth more than diamonds. It is simply given to us as God’s gift of grace.

Keep it! Do not squander it. Do not let it slip through your fingers. Do not be indifferent towards it. Do not let others snatch it from your grasp. Treasure it! Consider its worth and value! Esteem it highly! Protect it! Keep it!

As if to underscore this the apostle adds: "Endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit." We must say a word or two about that as well. But that shall wait until next time. Prof. Hanko

The Salvation of Adam & Eve

One of our readers asks, "Were Adam and Eve saved by the grace of God?" This question has two parts. First, were Adam and Eve saved? Second, how were they saved?

First, we can say that Eve was saved. God said to the serpent, who is Satan (Rev. 12:9), "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel" (Gen. 3:15). The "woman" is Eve (cf. 3:1-2, 4, 6, 12-13, 16). Through the Fall, Adam and Eve allied themselves with Satan and joined him in his hatred against God. When God put enmity between Satan and the "woman," Eve, He was restoring the covenant friendship which He had with her before the Fall. Viewed in this light, the "coats of skins" (3:21), which the Lord made and with which He clothed her, speak of the garments of salvation, as the church has traditionally taught. It comes as no surprise that Eve confesses that the sons she later bares came to her from the hand of the Almighty (4:1, 25). Thus God’s coming to find Eve (3:8ff.) speaks of His graciously coming to seek and to save that which was lost (cf. Luke 19:10). Clearly, Eve was saved.

Second, not only Eve but also Adam was saved. Eve is prominent in acknowledging that God gave her the birth of Cain and Seth (Gen. 4:1, 25), but are we to think that Adam played no role in naming his sons and thus in confessing Jehovah as the God who gives life? Similarly, God clothed not only Eve but also Adam in those "coats of skins" (3:21) which betoken salvation. Furthermore, God came not only to Eve but also to Adam to show them their sin and misery that He might deliver them (3:8ff.).

But if Adam and Eve were saved, we must next ask how they were saved. They certainly were not saved by their own "free will" or their own efforts. When God came to save them, they hid from God (3:8) and made excuses for their sins (3:12-13). It was God, and not themselves, who saved them. God said, "I will put enmity between thee and the woman" (3:15). Adam and Eve had no power or will to break free from Satan’s dominion. Only God could and only God did deliver them. But not only was their salvation wholly of God; it was also wholly of grace. Our first parents had disobeyed God’s command and had eaten of the forbidden fruit. They believed the devil and disbelieved the true and living God who had made them and who had entered into fellowship with them. Thus their salvation could only be by the sovereign mercy and gift of God. And since their salvation was wholly of grace, then it must also be of faith (Eph. 2:8). Adam and Eve were given faith by God to believe in the coming seed of the woman, Christ, who would bruise Satan’s head on the cross. And we, and all of God’s people in all ages, are saved in the same way as our first parents. Rev. Stewart

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