June 2004, Volume X, Issue
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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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