March 2013 • Volume XIV, Issue 11
God’s Way Is in the Sanctuary (2)
In the last News, we considered the grievous
afflictions that overwhelmed Asaph (Ps. 77:2-9). Now, we
shall see his restoration by God’s grace. "And I said"—a
thought grips Asaph; he must give it utterance—"this is
my infirmity," literally, "this is my anguish" (10).
"All my troubles (2-9), including my doubting
questionings (7-9)," Asaph realizes, "are bringing me
nothing but pain and grief. I must stop this!" "‘The
years of the right hand of the most High’ (10)—these are
what I must think about! Not in order to mope or feel
sorry for myself! Not in order to torture myself and
make myself feel worse by comparing my present misery
with former bliss and so wallow further in my grief." So
faith is reawakened in the troubled believer who recalls
"the years of the right hand of the most High" (10), the
times of God’s marvellous deeds. "He has delivered His
church in the past! He will do it for me!"
Notice Asaph’s believing resolution: "I will remember
the works of the Lord: surely I will remember thy
wonders of old. I will meditate also of all thy work,
and talk of thy doings" (11-12). Asaph promises that he
will "remember," "meditate" and "talk," literally, speak
with himself or muse, on God’s "works," "wonders" and
mighty "doings," and so fill his soul with good
thoughts. Even so must we think and speak of God’s great
redemption and wise providence, instead of moping in
self-pity. As the apostle Paul instructs us, "if there
be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on
these things" (Phil. 4:8). In this way, "the peace of
God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your
hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (4:7). If you
find yourself going the way of Asaph in despair, feed on
the truth of Philippians 4 and the lessons of Psalm 77!
This is where the "sanctuary" mentioned in the title of
this and the last article comes in. The word "holy" is
rightly translated as a holy place or "sanctuary," as
per Calvin and our Authorised Version (13). The
sanctuary or temple typifies God’s sacred dwelling place
in heaven. The Triune God is consecrated to Himself in
all His providential government and in all His ways with
us, individually and corporately. Thus, we must not
complain about His dealings with us. They are always for
His glory and for our good (Rom. 8:28), even if we do
not see it. But our problem is that we are more
interested in our own selfish interests and earthly
pleasures, so we foolishly think that God must be
supremely concerned about these things too, and that it
is His role to give us favourable winds and plain
sailing so that we feel good. If and when this does not
happen, we murmur and grumble as if He had wronged us.
But Scripture teaches that "the will of God" is our
"sanctification" (I Thess. 4:3), not our self-esteem,
health, wealth or fun.
Job was a much more God-centred person that we are but,
under extremely difficult circumstances, even he doubted
the Most High’s goodness to him and grumbled about his
Maker. But after God appeared in His majesty and spoke a
little of His wisdom, Job declared, "I abhor myself, and
repent in dust and ashes" (Job 42:6).
As Asaph well knew, at the heart and centre of the
temple was the ark of the covenant. In the ark were the
two tables of the law which reveal our sin. Atop the ark
was the mercy seat on which blood was sprinkled
typifying the cross of our Saviour. From the ark’s mercy
seat, Jehovah spoke of law and grace, of justice and
mercy in Jesus Christ in the fellowship of His covenant.
It is no wonder, therefore, that God’s way is "in the
sanctuary" and so is only understood by those in His
sanctuary. In the NT age, God dwells in His holy church
by the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Those who love His public
worship acquiesce and rejoice in Jehovah’s dealings with
them. But if you sinfully do not attend a faithful
church, you will not understand God’s way in your life
and so will bring down trouble upon your own head. This
is something to think about, if you are tempted to skip
In the preaching, the holy gospel of Christ is
proclaimed, the message of the One who is "the way, the
truth, and the life" (John 14:6). If you neglect or do
not heed the faithful preaching, you will struggle with
Jehovah’s way in your life.
Our Father has given us His inspired Word, the 66 books
of the Bible. The Scriptures must be read personally and
in family devotions. In this way, each of us will
confess, "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light
unto my path" (Ps. 119:105). But if you fall away from
Bible reading, you can expect anguish and grief.
Likewise, you cannot live an unholy life and acquiesce
in God’s dealings with you. Even in the way of
obedience, the saint will not always understand why
things happen as they do, but our comfort is that our
heavenly Father has a good purpose with it all.
In Psalms 73 and 77, Asaph understood two things in
God’s sanctuary. First, negatively, there is no common
grace (73:17-18) and, second, positively, God’s ways
with His elect are always gracious (77:13). These two
lessons are only learned in the sanctuary and are not
taught by the world, the false church or one’s own
In the sanctuary, with praise, wonder and joy, we
confess, "who is so great a God as our God?" (13). Why,
though, is He called "great" here, and not good or
righteous or wise? Because, in his unbelief, Asaph’s god
was too small! This is often our problem, too, for we
foolishly think that our infinite God is smaller than
our troubles! The incomparably "great" Jehovah decrees
our whole lives, plans each of our struggles, guides us
through all of them and brings us out the other side, in
order to sanctify us and glorify Himself. This is what
Asaph learned through his troubles: "Thy way, O God, is
in the sanctuary: who is so great a God as our God?"
(13). Rev. Stewart
Did Christ Endure God’s Wrath Against the
Whole Human Race?
I received a very thoughtful and incisive question from
a brother who had read Dr. Abraham Kuyper’s book,
Particular Grace, published by the Reformed
Free Publishing Association (RFPA) in Michigan, and
available from the CPRC (£22, inc. P&P).
As anyone familiar with some of Dr. Kuyper’s writings
knows, in the early part of his ministry, after his
conversion, he was an ardent and passionate defender of
the doctrine of sovereign and particular grace. He
fought furiously against the liberals in the Reformed
churches in the Netherlands who were teaching
Arminianism (condemned by the Canons of Dordt)
and outright Pelagianism in its worst form. Only later
in life, when he formed a political party and ran for a
place in the Dutch parliament, did he alter his views
and introduce into the churches the wretched doctrine of
common grace, though he still rightly denied that God
desires to save the reprobate.
The questioner, himself persuaded of the truth of
particular grace, wonders about the paragraph with which
chapter 24 of Kuyper’s book, Particular Grace,
begins: "Though we are committed to the confession that
the fruit of Jesus’ suffering has been appointed only
for the redeemed, we at the same time confess designedly
and emphatically that he has endured the wrath of God
against the sin of the whole human race" (p. 208). In
the questioner’s judgment, that statement seems to
militate against the teaching of the entire book. And so
it would seem.
Dr. Kuyper was a sufficiently astute theologian to avoid
the blatant contradiction that this paragraph suggests.
It would do Kuyper injustice to accuse him of holding
two contradictory positions: God’s particular grace in
the cross for the elect only and God’s general grace in
the cross for all men—as many erroneously teach today.
We must find the meaning of Kuyper’s statement within
the context of chapter 24 and his firm conviction that
grace is sovereign and for the elect only. That grace is
rooted in Christ’s atoning work, which was a
propitiation for His people only and for no one else.
The meaning of Kuyper can only be understood in the
light of an organic conception of the human race.
Admittedly, this is a doctrine that few understand and
believe, chiefly because Arminianism, with its
individualism, has conquered much of the professing
church. In Arminian thinking, Adam’s fall affected only
individuals; and Christ’s death is only for individuals—individuals
who accept Christ as their Saviour.
But individualism is not the teaching of Scripture, and
Kuyper was too Reformed to think in these terms. He saw
the entire human race as an organic whole with Adam as
its head and root. He grasped the biblical teaching that
Adam’s fall brought guilt upon the whole human race. He
saw that all men, including the elect, are guilty for
Adam’s sin of eating the forbidden fruit. Kuyper
recognized, that for us to be saved, the guilt of Adam’s
sin had to be taken away by Christ’s perfect sacrifice.
He understood, therefore, that Christ paid for Adam’s
sin and the guilt of it. In that sense of the word,
Kuyper could say that Christ "endured the wrath of God
against the sin of the whole human race," for the whole
human race was, organically and federally, in Adam.
This truth that Kuyper sets forth here is a crucially
important one and must not escape the attention of
anyone who wishes to be Reformed. At the same time,
Kuyper, though supralapsarian in his theology, looks at
the matter from what seems to be an infralapsarian
viewpoint. If I may make Kuyper’s position clear with a
figure (not Kuyper’s figure), I would say that Kuyper
looks at the whole human race as if it is a stream of
water that issues from its source. Adam is that source.
It was created by God pure and sweet, but Adam corrupted
it so that the whole stream became deadly polluted. If
the stream or any part of it is to be purified, the
source must be purified. This Christ did by His atoning
sacrifice when He died for the original sin of Adam for
which all men are guilty. In that context, the statement
of Kuyper is true.
But after the fall, God divided the stream into two
separate streams; humanity was sovereignly divided into
the stream of election and the stream of reprobation.
But the stream of election is now free from Adam’s guilt
because Christ took away Adam’s guilt—the guilt of all
men, also of us, the redeemed.
While Kuyper’s meaning is along these lines, I
personally prefer another solution to the problem. It
is, admittedly, the supralapsarian position, but it
seems to me to be more in keeping with the Scriptures.
The idea is this. From eternity in His unchangeable
counsel, God determined to glorify Himself through
Christ as the head of the church. This church, saved in
Christ, is the true world of sovereign election. It is
the world for which Christ died. It is the world of John
3:16 and I John 2:2. It is the world that is organically
one with Christ, for it is His body. It is the world
that includes the creation in all its parts over which
Christ is Lord and head. It is the world of the age to
come in which God’s glory shall shine through Christ and
His church from sea to sea.
To accomplish that great purpose of glorifying Himself
in Christ, God determined all His counsel: the heavenly
creation, the world of angels, the universe in all its
vast expanse and the human race born out of Adam. While
in the world of angels election and reprobation were
accomplished immediately with the fall of Satan, God
determined to cause His church to be born in a world of
men, organically one in Adam, guilty because of Adam’s
fall, but redeemed through Christ who was eternally
their head and suffered and died as their head. The fall
of Adam attains its purpose in Christ.
The relationship between election and reprobation is not
that of a common source corrupted by Adam’s fall with
part of it snatched out of a fallen human race, but of a
temple of elect with Christ the cornerstone and the
reprobate as the scaffolding needed to build the temple.
It is not the relation between two streams of water,
once one stream, but now divided into two, but it is
like the relation between corn kernels on the one hand,
and roots, tassel, stem, husks and cob on the other
hand. The latter is needed for the former, but the
latter is not the purpose of the plant, though necessary
for the plant. It is the wonderful work of God,
preserving man’s organic unity to serve as a means to
bring about the one great organic unity of Christ and
His church—by which God Himself is glorified in all His
wonderful works. "How wondrous are the ways of God,
unfathomed and unknown!" Prof. Hanko
If you would like to receive the Covenant Reformed News
free by e-mail each month (and/or by post, if you are in the UK), please
contact Rev. Stewart and we will
gladly send it to you.