Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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June 2004, Volume X, Issue 2

Holding the Traditions (3)

Having explained the idea and the content of the "traditions" (II Thess. 2:15) last time, we must now ask: Where does this leave the church of Rome and her tradition? Rome has rejected apostolic traditions. Justification by faith alone is jettisoned for justification by faith and works. Christ’s all sufficient atonement and mediation is rejected for the mass and the intercession of Mary and the saints. Sovereign election and reprobation (11-14) is forsaken for the "gospel" of free will. (How few professed Protestants today "stand fast, and hold" this apostolic tradition!) Rome also rejects the faithful tradition of the best teachers of the church (e.g., Augustine, Luther and Calvin).

However, II Thessalonians 2 does apply to Rome and her tradition. It is not verse 15, though. Rome is embraced in the "falling away" (3), idolatry (4), false miracles (9), ingenious deceits (10) and "strong delusion" (11) which softens the world up to receive the "man of sin" (3), who brings the apostasy of the centuries to its culmination. At "his coming" (8) on the clouds, Christ will destroy "the son of perdition" (3).

While many are "falling away" (3), our calling is to "stand fast" (15) by "hold[ing] the traditions" as we "have been taught" (15). Obviously, this includes the truth of this chapter (II Thess. 2). Hold fast to the truth of Christ’s bodily return in great glory to destroy the man of sin who is the culmination of the working of the mystery of iniquity. Hold fast to the truth that God sovereignly orders all of this for the salvation of His elect and the destruction of the wicked (11-14). Indeed, hold fast to all of God-breathed Scripture: OT and NT; every book, chapter and verse.

Every professedly Christian group has its tradition (a received body of doctrine), whether its tradition is large or small, or whether or not it even realizes that it has its tradition. But how are we to judge between the various traditions of Rome or the Jehovah’s Witnesses or the Reformed churches, etc.? Scripture, of course, is the infallible rule which judges all tradition (Acts 17:11; I John 4:1).

We in the CPRF believe that the Three Forms of Unity (the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession and the Canons of Dordt) faithfully set forth and summarise what the Scripture teaches about the Trinity, Creation, the Person and natures of Christ, the doctrines of grace, etc. Thus we stand fast to the Three Forms of Unity as a concise and accurate presentation of the truth of God’s Word.

We ought also to notice that the command of II Thessalonians 2:15 to hold the traditions is not addressed to church officers (pastors, elders and deacons) but to all the "brethren." For the Bible is given to all God’s people, for they all have the Spirit of Christ to enable them to understand and cling to the truth of God’s Word. Rev. Stewart

Achan’s Sin and Punishment (4)

And it shall be, that he that is taken with the accursed thing shall be burnt with fire, he and all that he hath: because he hath transgressed the covenant of the Lord, and because he hath wrought folly in Israel (Josh. 7:15).

I have already answered the reader’s two questions: What was the accursed thing which Achan stole? And was not Achan’s punishment for his sin too severe? However, there are also various practical issues involved in this whole question which have relevance for us today, and which ought also be discussed here.

The first matter is corporate responsibility. This biblical doctrine touches on our lives in many ways, for corporate responsibility brings the guilt of others, within the corporate unity in which we live, to us. The sin of a father is visited upon the children, as the second commandment points out, because of corporate responsibility. The sins of a nation bring guilt on all the citizens of that nation, and, indeed, as we all know, we all suffer for these sins even if we are opposed to them. The sin of divorce and remarriage destroys the home, and the whole nation suffers because the home is the foundation of the State. The murder of unborn infants is a sin of the nation that brings grief and judgment to all of us because we are all guilty.

The same is true of the church. We may be in a church which approves of false doctrine while we condone our presence in that church by pushing the responsibility on others and by assuring ourselves that we do not agree with such false doctrine. But, if we remain in that church, our responsibility for the sin is visited upon us when our children and our children’s children depart yet further from the gospel.

The only way in which we can escape from the corporate guilt of the "corporations" to which we belong is through heartfelt confession of sin. That involves several elements. We must, as Daniel did (Dan. 9), confess these sins before God as sins of our own. But this is not enough. We must make our objections known and protest against the evil of the corporation to which we belong and the guilt of which we bear. We must protest against abortion, divorce and remarriage, and immorality within the State. We must protest against drunkenness when it is a sin of our parents. We must protest against false doctrine when it appears in the church or denomination of which we are a member. We must, in other words, do what we can to eradicate the sin. In this way, God forgives us for these corporate sins, as He does for our guilt and sin in Adam. Then the atoning power of the cross is our possession, and we are free from those sins.

The second practical point has to do with the fact that the word translated "accursed" in Joshua 6 and 7 also means "devoted." I explained what that meant for Israel. I want now to emphasize several points especially relevant to us in our present day.

1) When Adam fell, the guilt and punishment of his sin came not only on the whole human race, but also on the creation: "cursed is the ground for they sake" (Gen. 3:17). The entire human race and the entire creation is accursed and doomed to destruction—as Jericho was. The sin of the human race, as it affects the creation, is the sin of using God’s world to establish a kingdom of Satan and to seek one’s own pleasure rather than the glory of God.

2) God has redeemed "the world" through Christ. That world is the whole number of the elect who believe in Christ and the whole cosmos as well (John 3:16; Col. 1:20). At the end of the age, God will make a new heaven and a new earth and bring His people to the glory of eternal life.

3) God’s people are now in this present creation—along with the wicked. This creation is doomed to destruction (II Pet. 3:10-13). Only when it is destroyed will God form a new heaven and a new earth, but out of the ashes of this present creation. He will do this because the creation is His, and He will not abandon it. Our God has a great purpose with it, which He accomplishes in Christ.

4) The creation which is now accursed is used by the wicked for their own purposes. Thus, they are accursed along with the creation—as Achan was with the goods of Jericho. They will, therefore, perish with this present world.

5) But the elect are redeemed along with the redemption of the new creation, both of which are redeemed through the work of Christ.

6) Thus the things of this creation are not, in themselves, evil. This is Paul’s teaching: "For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer" (I Tim. 4:4-5). The creation itself is God’s work; whether it is cursed or sanctified is determined by the use to which it is put by man. The wicked use it to curse God and are themselves cursed with the curse upon the creation.

7) How then are the people of God to use this world? Paul gives us direction. It is to be received by God’s people with thanksgiving and sanctified by God’s Word and prayer (I Tim. 4:4-5). That means that it must be devoted to God in our use of it in all our life. "Sanctified" means "consecrated," and "consecrated" means "devoted." To receive it with thanksgiving is to acknowledge God as the Giver and use it to His glory. How do we use it to His glory? We do that when we do not seek the things of the world for their own sakes and for our carnal pleasure, but we seek God’s glory with these earthly things when we use them all to seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness (Matt. 6:33).

We have much in the story of Achan to ponder, and we have much reason to humble ourselves before God seeking His forgiveness. Prof. H. Hanko

Not Willing That Any Should Perish (2)

Last time, we saw that the Arminian and free offer view of II Peter 3:9 (that God desires to save absolutely everybody) makes Peter agree with the scoffers that Christ is not coming back. For, if Christ delays His return so that everybody head for head will be brought to repentance, then His second coming will never happen.

But who then are the "any" of II Peter 3:9? Three lines of argument lead to the same conclusion, that they are the beloved people of God.

First, we should notice the word "us-ward" in the text: "The Lord ... is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." The apostle refers to the same people as "us-ward" and "any." The Lord is longsuffering to us and so is not willing that any (of us) should perish. The "us" are referred to as "beloved" in the previous verse: "But, beloved, ... the Lord ... is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish" (8-9). Against the dark backdrop of the destruction of the world and His fearful judgment upon the ungodly, the Lord assures us four times in II Peter 3 (1, 8, 14, 17) that we are His "beloved" people, loved with the everlasting, irresistible, gracious love of God, according to our eternal "election" (1:10).

Second, Peter explains that the "longsuffering" of II Peter 3:9 is not an ineffectual wish of God to save everybody, for a few verses later he tells us that "the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation" (15). Here Peter teaches that those to whom God is longsuffering are saved. This is an established fact to be reckoned as a first principle in understanding God’s longsuffering: "account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation" (15).

Third, we should note the preposition taken by "longsuffering" in II Peter 3:9. Sometimes "longsuffering" takes the prepositions "upon" or "towards." Here "into" is used. Literally, the text reads, "the Lord ... is longsuffering into us-ward." This indicates the closest possible connection between God’s longsuffering and us, such that God’s longsuffering grabs hold of us and effects our salvation.

Now we are ready to answer the question: Why did Christ not return, say, in the year 99 or 872 or 1356 or 2003? The answer is that some of God’s elect people had not yet been born and called. Only when the last member of Christ’s body is added, only when the last living stone is fitted in God’s temple, only when all the sheep are called, will Christ come again. When the bride is made ready, the bridegroom will come!

Remember too that the salvation of each member is necessary for the rest of the elect, for the church is an organism. Either all are saved together or all perish together, for, if one is lost, all are lost.

God’s "promise" and "longsuffering" and "will" are that none of His people "perish" but that "all ... come to repentance" (9). Through the preaching of the gospel, all the elect are gathered and then (and only then) does Christ return to judge the ungodly and renew the creation. Be patient for the coming of the Lord draws nigh! Rev. Stewart

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