June 2011 • Volume XIII, Issue 14
Glorious Things Spoken of the Church (1)
What do you think of Christ’s church? "I’m not really
that excited about it." "To be honest, it is peripheral in my life
(though I know this is wrong)." "I think that I love God in Jesus
Christ, but I have little enthusiasm for His church."
Psalm 87 is a part of God-breathed Scripture specifically designed to
help us in this regard. It sets forth the glory of Jehovah’s church. In
what does its glory consist? How must its glory be conceived? Psalm 87
calls us to emulate God and His attitude to His church, as well as the
faithful saints of all ages and their estimation of her: "Glorious
things are spoken of thee, O city of God" (3)! You and I must think
God’s thoughts after Him about His beloved bride, the church. We must
say from our hearts what God says about His church.
God’s evaluation of His church is not that of the ungodly world. The
Samaritans declared, "this city [of Jerusalem] of old time hath made
insurrection against kings, and ... rebellion and sedition have been
made therein" (Ezra 4:19). The Edomites cried out concerning God’s city,
"Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof" (Ps. 137:7)! The
false church of Rome has called Christ’s church, reformed according to
the Word of God, an "assembly of heretics."
But listen to God extol His church in His Word! "Beautiful for
situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of
the north, the city of the great King" (48:2). "For the Lord hath chosen
Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation" (132:13). The church is the
apple of God’s eye, "the pillar and ground of the truth" (I Tim. 3:15).
The people of God speak glorious things of the church. Augustine’s
famous book, The City of God, was named after Psalm 87:3 and similar
verses. John Calvin declared, "The state or kingdom of the church
constitutes the principle and august theatre where God presents and
displays the tokens of His wonderful power, wisdom and righteousness."
Again, "A right judgment cannot be formed of the happiness of the
church, except when we estimate it according to the standard of God’s
Word." Again Calvin said, "If we do not prefer the church to all the
other objects of our solicitude, we are unworthy of being accounted
among her members." Spurgeon wrote, "Whatever glorious things the saints
may say of the church in their eulogies, they cannot exceed what
prophets have foretold, what angels have sung, or what God Himself has
declared. Happy are the tongues which learn to occupy themselves with so
excellent a subject."
In order that we, God’s children, may speak glorious things of the
church, we are taught of her glories in Scripture, including in the
Psalms (e.g., Ps. 46; 48; 87; 122; 137). As part of God’s Word, He has
commanded His ministers to preach these Psalms (II Tim. 4:2). Also He
has commanded us to sing them (Ps. 95:2; Col. 3:16). Psalm 87 tells us
in its title that it is a "Psalm or Song."
In Psalm 87:1, "His foundation is in the holy mountains," "His" refers
to God. God founded Jerusalem in the "holy mountains" (1)—this is
one of the "glorious" things spoken of the church (3).
Jerusalem is situated on a chain of mountains running north-south,
parallel to the east coast of the Mediterranean. More precisely,
Jerusalem is situated on four "holy mountains" (1): Zion, Moriah, Scopus
and Ophel. As a city founded on the mountains, Jerusalem is elevated. It
is not one of the world’s highest peaks—too high (and cold) a mountain
would be unsuitable for a pilgrimage and capital city—and even Hebron to
the south is higher, but apart from the southern approach, you must
ascend to get to Jerusalem. This is especially evident in the pilgrimage
Psalms (Ps. 120-134). "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from
whence cometh my help" (121:1). "Jerusalem is builded as a city that is
compact together: whither the tribes go up" (122:3-4).
As a city founded on the mountains, Jerusalem is well defended. Enemy
troops must climb up to reach it—tiring! This also makes it difficult
for them to transport munitions and supplies. The elevation of Israel’s
capital city was a defence: "As the mountains are round about Jerusalem,
so the Lord is round about his people from henceforth even for ever"
(125:2). Also, Jerusalem’s walls were built on her hills. If it is
harder to attack your enemy when he is in a high fortification, it is
easier to attack your enemy from your own high fortification. "Walk
about Zion, and go round about her: tell [i.e., number] the towers
thereof. Mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces; that ye may
tell it to the generation following" (48:12-13).
As a city founded on the mountains, Jerusalem is steadfast, firm and
unshakeable. Hills are a picture of firmness (46:2), especially
Jerusalem’s hills: "They that trust in the Lord shall be as mount Zion,
which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever" (125:1).
Now in the New Testament age of the one, holy, apostolic church of Jesus
Christ, consisting of believing Jews and Gentiles, the earthly city of
Jerusalem is no more beloved or favoured of God than Dallas, Delhi,
Dublin or Dakar. Jerusalem fell to the Romans in AD 70, for the church
had outgrown her Jewish swaddling bands and become catholic or
universal. The hour Jesus had spoken of has come and now is "when the
true worshippers ... worship the Father in spirit and in truth" (John
4:23) and the earthly mountains of Jerusalem and Gerizim are irrelevant
(20-21; cf. Mal. 1:11).
Next time, Lord willing, we shall consider to what the glorious
elevation, mighty defence and unshakeable firmness of Jerusalem’s
foundation refer in the New Testament age, the days of the kingdom of
God in Jesus Christ. Rev. Stewart
Jude’s Quotation of Enoch
"What about the prophecy of Enoch in Jude 14-15 (‘And Enoch also, the
seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh
with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to
convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds
which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which
ungodly sinners have spoken against him’)? Is this endorsing an
apocryphal writing? Does this militate against the Protestant teaching
The question brings to mind a personal experience. I was undergoing that
very frightening event in my life called "the classical exam." I had
graduated from seminary; I had passed my three full days of oral exams
before the synod; I had received and accepted a call, and now was the
final and decisive exam, which would determine whether the churches
considered me fit for the ministry of the Word. Seven years of study and
a lifetime in that great calling of the ministry were in the scales of
Unlike the synodical exams at which the (more sympathetic) professors
asked the questions, at the classical exam, all the ministers within the
classis participated. I was being examined in knowledge of Scripture.
The quizzing minister put this question to me: "Do you believe that
there are divinely inspired books that are not included in the Bible?"
He mentioned a few of them. I had been taught the truth of the organic
inspiration of the Bible, by which is meant that God eternally
determined the whole of the Scriptures as a perfect and complete record
of the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. The question seemed to me to
be at odds with that truth. And so, wondering why it was asked, I
answered, "No." My questioner immediately responded with the remark,
"You are wrong." Well, as you all know, I passed anyway; apparently the
classis did not consider the question sufficiently important to make an
issue of it. And, at this point I am sufficiently old to announce
publicly that I am still of the position that I was right and my
There are two aspects to our Korean reader’s question; I will answer
The first aspect concerns whether or not Jude 14-15 is a quotation of an
apocryphal writing called The Book of Enoch. We should note that this
reference in Jude to the prophecy of Enoch does not agree fully with any
passage in The Book of Enoch, and is likely not a quotation from any
book. Those who do not believe that it is a quotation from The Book of
Enoch prefer to refer it to oral tradition. Among those who take this
position is John Calvin. The editor to Calvin’s commentary adds that
this is "the most common opinion," before continuing, "There is no
evidence of such a book being known for some time after this epistle was
written; and the book so called was probably a forgery, occasioned by
this reference to Enoch’s prophecy." H. C. Thiessen agrees (Introduction
to the New Testament [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1954], p. 294).
On the other hand, R. C. H. Lenski, the Lutheran commentator, holds to
the idea that this is a direct quotation. He spends considerable time in
discussing the whole matter, but says that the infallibility of
Scripture is not called into question.
If it is true that Jude is referring here to a tradition that had come
down to the church over the centuries, it would not be contrary to
Scripture’s integrity that Jude should quote it. There are other
examples, one notable instance of which is found in Acts 20:35, which
states that Christ said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive."
This word of the Lord Jesus is not recorded in any of the four gospel
It may be argued that these words of Christ were spoken much closer in
time to the use of them by Paul (in Acts 20) than the words of Enoch
recorded in Jude’s epistle. It may also be argued that Paul is quoting
Jesus rather than Enoch, but what difference does it really make? It was
the Spirit of Christ who inspired Enoch (and Jude).
This brings me to the second question: Does this militate against the
Protestant teaching about Scripture? I presume the reader means: Does a
quotation that itself does not appear in the Bible militate against the
infallible inspiration of Scripture? The answer is most emphatically
that it does not.
Even if the content of Enoch’s preaching came down through tradition,
that prophecy was inspired in Enoch in the same way that Paul’s
speeches, quoted in Scripture, were inspired by the Holy Spirit. Enoch
was a prophet of God and spoke His Word.
Further, we may be sure that the excerpt from Enoch’s prophecy referred
to by Jude is correct, for the Holy Spirit inspired Jude to write what
he did. If the tradition of the prophecy was faulty, the Spirit would
not have inspired Jude to use it. Let us remember that the same Holy
Spirit who inspired the prophecy of judgment on the wicked in the
pre-flood days, is the same Holy Spirit who inspired Jude to write his
epistle. The Holy Spirit surely knows what He said through Enoch.
Further, Enoch was a prophet of God. Paul even quotes from secular
writers, the most notable of whom is Aretus, whom he cited on Mars Hill
(Acts 17:28). The following points have to be understood from this. 1)
Aretus, though an unbeliever, spoke truly in the statement Paul quotes.
2) Aretus surely spoke this in the context of his own pagan worship of
many gods, but that does not alter the fact that the statement as such
is true. 3) Paul is not saying Aretus spoke by the Holy Spirit; he is
only saying that Aretus, in this statement, made a correct observation.
4) Since Scripture is infallibly inspired, the statement of Aretus was
indeed made by him.
To speak such formal truths is not beyond the capability of unbelievers.
When I studied plain geometry, I learned and memorized the so-called
Pythagorean Theorem. Pythagoras was not a believer, but this
mathematical statement is true—from a formal point of view. If you put
it into the context of Pythagoras’ philosophy, that the ultimate reality
is number, then it is false because Pythagoras’ philosophy is false. If
I had said in a test that the Pythagorean theorem was false because
Pythagoras was an unbeliever, my Christian school teacher would have
marked it wrong, I’m quite sure.
Enoch prophesied in a time similar to the time Jude wrote his epistle
and our time. Let the wicked understand that such prophecies against
them will surely be fulfilled on them. God’s written Word stands unmoved
and unchangeable: the Lord’s return will be terrible to the ungodly!
Repent and believe the gospel of Christ! Prof. Hanko
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