Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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March 2005, Volume X, Issue 11

Upon What Does Your Faith Stand? (2)

Having seen last time that our faith must "not stand in the wisdom of men," we now consider the true basis of faith, "the power of God" (I Cor. 2:5). First, Jesus Christ is "the power of God" (1:24). He is the omnipotent God, as the incarnation of the eternal Son, and the rock on which the whole universal church is built. He is surely sufficient ground for your faith! Second, it is especially the cross of Christ which is the power of God, for "the cross ... is the power of God" (1:18). Thus Paul proclaimed "Christ, and him crucified" (2:2). The power of the cross bound Satan, founded the kingdom of God and breaks the dominion of sin in the believer’s heart. Your faith must be grounded in God’s redemption in Christ Jesus! Third, Christ crucified is the power of God as the One who works by His Holy Spirit. Thus Paul speaks of "the Spirit and of power," that is, the powerful Spirit (2:4). The power of the Spirit here does not refer to His might in the creation (cf. Gen. 1:2) or His driving out demons. Rather it speaks of His work in the hearts of the children of God assuring us of God’s truth and saving us from our sins. Fourth, Christ crucified works by His Spirit centrally through the preaching of the true gospel. Thus the apostle declares, "my speech and my preaching" was "in demonstration of the Spirit and of power" (I Cor. 2:4). By the proclamation of the gospel the Spirit of Christ powerfully blesses God’s Word to our hearts.

This truth—that Christ crucified speaking by the Holy Spirit in the preaching of the gospel is the power of God—has important implications. First, faith is not a matter of rational proof ("Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him;" 2:9), but of divine revelation ("But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit;" 2:10). Faith is not wrought by human persuasion ("excellency of speech or of wisdom;" 2:1) but by divine testimony (2:1) which is "confirmed" in us (1:6). Second, since saving faith is not established or built upon rational arguments (which not all can follow), the simplest Christian can be assured of the truth of the Bible’s inspiration and message. This is important for if this conviction could only be wrought by complicated arguments, much reading of books, study of ancient Near Eastern culture, etc., many of us could never attain such assurance. Third, faith is not directly proportional to learning. It is not the case that the most learned Christians have the greatest faith, or that the least learned Christians have the weakest faith. We have all seen instances of comparatively simple folk with great faith and much assurance of the certainty of the Christian gospel, for "Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith" (James 2:5)? Rev. Stewart

The Binding of Satan (3)

And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, and cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season (Rev. 20:1-3).

One of our readers asked for an explanation of the binding of Satan as described in Revelation 20. In the last two issues of the News, I explained that the whole book of Revelation is filled with visionary symbols, not always so easy to understand. The same is true of Revelation 20. I also gave an interpretation of the first three verses of the chapter, including an explanation of the symbolism. Please re-read these articles so that you can read this article in the light of what I have previously written.

I suggested one interpretation of the "nations in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog" in the last article. But this interpretation was only a suggestion, because Scripture does not give us sufficient information to be able to predict with certainty how God will finally fulfil these prophecies. Many people in the past have attempted to do so. They have not only confidently predicted who are Gog and Magog, but they have claimed to know almost all the details of God’s purpose and plan as God carries out His own counsel in our dispensation, and as we near the end of the ages. Some have even been so bold that they have predicted the day on which our Lord will return.

The fact is, however, that all their predictions have proved false by the inexorable march of time and the unfolding of events. God makes fools of them. God does this to warn against idle speculation and proud conceit which leads us to think we can guess the mysterious (and frequently unexpected) ways of God whose ways are higher than our ways and whose thoughts are higher than our thoughts.

For this reason, we approached this question of the identity of God and Magog with a great deal of caution and only suggested one possible explanation.

Some have foolishly insisted that unless we are able to answer all the questions concerning God’s works and ways, we will not be able to discern the signs which are necessary for us to recognize in order that we may live in the expectation of the coming of Christ.

Such reasoning is, however, false. It is false, first of all, because we are always to live in the hope of Christ’s coming, regardless of the signs of His coming which unfold about us. Scripture tells us that Christ is surely coming; that He is coming as swiftly as He can; that the exact time of His coming is not revealed to us, and that we must live in the hope and expectation of His coming always and under all circumstances. This is the more emphatically true, because, as Jesus makes clear in John 14:1-3, Jesus comes again in a very personal and individual way when we die. Death is the end of the world for believers, the end of our pilgrimage here in the world, and the beginning of our residence in heaven, our Father’s house. Thus, to live in the hope and expectation of the coming of Christ is to live in the assurance that when we die we are with the Lord.

Second, it is not necessary for us to be able to predict with certainty all the details which God has determined before the end comes, because, when these events unfold, we will recognize them as signs of which Scripture speaks—even though the signs may be fulfilled in ways we did not expect. To live in the consciousness of God’s sovereign control of all that happens in the world, and to walk in the hope of the coming of Christ, is to be open to God’s unfolding of His counsel in the events of the world. If we walk this way, we will surely see God’s hand working all things so that Christ can come again to take us home.

History is the unfolding of God’s counsel. The child of God who lives here in the world in the consciousness of his calling to walk pleasing to God sees God’s hand in all that takes place around him. He is a student of history, because he sees God’s hand in history. He pays close attention to events taking place in the world about him, because he wants to know, as much as he can, what God is doing.

In the midst of that history, the child of God is a pilgrim and a stranger here in the world. He is a citizen of the kingdom of heaven, a member of the family of God, an heir of heavenly treasures which shall presently be given him. Each moment of his life is a step forward towards what John Bunyan called "The Celestial City." By faith he sees the light of it shining in the distance and presses forward, through countless difficulties, towards that destination.

The Word of God is a lamp unto his feet and a light upon his path. But as with any torch or light, the Word of God does not shine so far ahead that we can see all the details of the path we shall have to walk. It shines on our path just far enough ahead for us to see where we need to go in our next half mile or so. We must not try to figure out the way ahead. We are guided by our God. That is enough. We trust that He will, through His Word and Spirit, guide us no matter what the way may be. And when we are near enough to events to see them clearly in the light of His Word shining on our pathway, then we recognize those events as the sovereign rule of God, spoken of in His Word and reminding us that Christ is coming again.

And so we are not disturbed when we cannot play the roles of prophets to interpret precisely the mighty ways of our gracious God. Prof. H. Hanko

Why Did the Lord Choose Judas? (1)

A reader asks, "Why did the Lord choose Judas to be a disciple if his heart was not right with God?" To answer this question, we need first of all to underscore two important points. First, Jesus knew that Judas was an ungodly traitor. He knew this at the Last Supper, and He told him so (John 13:18, 21, 26-27). Christ knew this even when He fed the 5,000 in Galilee: "Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?" (John 6:70). In fact, "Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him" (John 6:64). Clearly, Christ was under no illusions about Judas; He knew that he was an unbeliever and that he would betray Him. Second, Jesus chose Judas to be one of the twelve without any compulsion. Jesus called "unto him whom he would: and they came unto him. And he ordained twelve" (Mark 3:13-14).

So why did Jesus choose Judas in full knowledge that he would betray Him? The general answer is that it was God’s will, what God wanted Christ to do. Thus Jesus said, "as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do" (John 14:31) and "the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works ... I do" (John 5:36). So the question now is, Why did God want a traitor amongst the twelve disciples?

First, Christ chose Judas Iscariot (who was to betray Him) in order to fulfil prophecy. Jesus knew Psalm 41:9 and announced, "the scripture [must] be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me" (John 13:18). Christ was mindful of Psalm 109 (called "Psalmus Ischarioticus" by the Latin fathers) and so declared, "none of them [i.e., the twelve disciples] is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled" (John 17:12). The Old Testament predicted that the Messiah would be betrayed by a intimate friend who ate with Him (Ps. 41:9; 55:12-14, 20-21) and so Jesus appointed "twelve, that they should be with him" (Mark 3:14). In David’s prophetic prayer concerning the traitor, he says, "Set thou a wicked [one] over him: and let Satan stand at his right hand" (Ps. 109:6) and so we read that Judas was a "devil" (John 6:70) who had Satan for his counsellor ("at his right hand"), who entered into Judas and led him to betray Christ (John 13:2, 27).

Second, Jesus chose the traitor Judas, for Judas had a key role in leading Him to the cross. After Christ’s high priestly prayer (John 17) and His agonies in the garden, the traitor brought "a great multitude with swords and staves" to arrest Him (Matt. 26:47). Jesus told the multitude that He could call upon the Father who would immediately send Him more than twelve legions of angels, "But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?" (Matt. 26:53-54). Then we read, "But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled" (Matt. 26:56). At this time Christ also commanded Peter, "Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?" (John 18:11). Thus Jesus chose Judas as a disciple, for it was through Judas that God would convey to Christ the cup of His wrath against the sins of His elect, which cup Jesus must drink on the cross for our salvation. We shall consider this important subject further next time (DV). Rev. Stewart

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