May 2002, Volume IX, Issue
"What think ye of Christ?" (Matt. 22:42) is an oft-quoted and
penetrating biblical question. We could make a second, similar inquiry: what
think ye of the Bible? Pause for a moment to answer this question honestly in
your heart before God.
Do you consider the Scriptures dry and tasteless? Or do your
confess with the psalmist that they are "sweeter ... than honey and the
honeycomb" (Ps. 19:10)? Is it frequently the case with you that Bible reading is
a chore? Or can you say with David that God’s Word is "more to be desired ...
than gold, yea, than much fine gold" (Ps. 19:10)? Or with Jeremiah, "Thy words
were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing
of mine heart" (Jer. 15:16)?
And what do you think of the Bible’s power or lack of it? Is
the Bible a tame book, as harmless as a damp squib or a child’s toy? Or is it
merely moderately powerful? Never! As if the Word of the omnipotent Triune God
could be anything other than almighty! The psalmist knew well its mighty works:
"converting the soul ... making wise the simple ... rejoicing the heart ...
[and] enlightening the eyes" (Ps. 19:7-8). And what similes or pictures does God
use to convey the awesome power of His Word? What images come to your mind? The
prophet Jeremiah would have answered immediately, "God’s Word is like a fire and
a hammer." For it is written, "Is not my word like as a fire? saith the Lord;
and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?" (Jer. 23:29).
This fire is not the sort of fire that burns in a grate or a
fireplace. It is a powerful conflagration like a raging forest fire or a
refiner’s fire in a massive furnace. Whoever dies in their sins will experience
God’s powerful word of destruction in the "everlasting burnings" (Isa. 33:14).
On the other hand, the fire of the Word works constructively and not
destructively in the believer. Jesus said, "Sanctify them by thy truth; thy word
is truth" (John 17:17). We are sanctified through believing study of the Bible.
God’s "fiery law" (Deut. 33:2) exposes our sins, and the gospel too comes to us
as fire (cf. Luke 12:49). Thus we experience God’s fiery cleansing of us as we
read the Scriptures.
The Bible is not only a fire; it is also God’s hammer. It is
not the sort of hammer that drives in nails or tent pegs. It is like a
blacksmith’s forge hammer or a rock-breaking hammer. God’s Word is a
long-shafted, heavy sledgehammer. This hammer pulverises the wicked forever in
Hell, whereas believers experience God’s hammer as it smashes our stubbornness
and hardheartedness. It breaks our hearts and enables us to live after the new
A book by a human author may have many fine qualities. It may
be interesting and exciting so that you turn its pages eagerly and cannot set it
down. But the Bible, as well as being interesting and exciting, is also
powerful, divinely powerful, for it is a mighty hammer that breaks the rock in
It is not only the Bible that is God’s hammer but the
preaching of the gospel is also God’s hammer, as the context of Jeremiah 23:29
shows, and as we shall see later in this series (DV). Rev. Stewart
Seeking the Unity of the Church (1)
I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye
walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and
meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to
keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:1-3).
It is with deep gratitude to our faithful God that once again
we resume our writing for the Covenant Reformed News. This part of the
News has been devoted to answering questions concerning the explanation of
various texts which our readers sent in. And so, as we resume publication, we
ask our readers to send in texts which they wish to see discussed or with which
they have some problems. We will do our best to answer them. It is preferable
that, when sending in a text, the reader ask a specific question concerning the
meaning, for, if only a text is sent in with a request to comment on it, it is
easy to miss the point the reader has in mind. I look forward to your requests.
In this issue of the News and in following issues I want to
discuss the passage from Ephesians 4 quoted above. I do this because the
admonition of the text is an urgent one: "Endeavour to keep the unity of the
The urgency of this admonition is clear from the text itself.
In the first place, the apostle begins the passage by
reminding the church in Ephesus that he is a prisoner in Rome for the sake of
the gospel of the Lord. It is as a prisoner that he makes this appeal to the
The point is that he could very well be killed for the sake
of the gospel, and in the consciousness of the fact that his life may be nearing
its end, he says as it were: "If there is one admonition more than any other
which I want to mention to you Ephesians before I die, it is this: Endeavour to
keep the unity of the Spirit!"
The urgency of this admonition is also to be found in the
fact that chapters 4-6 are the practical part of the epistle in which Paul turns
from the doctrine of the church to the practical implications. The very first
admonition is this one! "Do this before all else!"
Further, this urgency is underscored by the word the apostle
uses: "I beseech you ..." Now "beseech" is a very strong word. The apostle says,
as it were, "I beg of you; I plead with you; I put my heart behind this
admonition so that it carries all the earnestness of which I am capable!"
Scripture conveys that urgency to you and me. This
admonition, directed to you and me, is serious beyond description.
When the apostle speaks of the "unity of the Spirit," he is
talking about the unity of the church.
That this is true is clear, first of all, from the fact that
the whole epistle to the Ephesians has to do with the doctrine of the church as
the body of Christ.
It is clear, in the second place, because in the verses
following, the church is the subject of the discussion. "There is one body, and
one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one
faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through
all, and in you all ... And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and
some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the
saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ"
The apostle is not only speaking of the church in general,
the church as the body of Christ; he is speaking primarily of the church as
institute. That is, he is speaking of the church as it is manifested in the
world in the local congregations. This is the church which is composed of the
gathering of believers and their seed; the church which worships on the Lord’s
Day; the church in which are office bearers; the church where the gospel is
preached; the church in which God’s people enjoy fellowship with God under the
preaching and the sacraments, and fellowship with each other in the communion of
the saints. It is the church of which we are (or ought to be) members.
The unity of that church we are to endeavour to keep.
When we confess our faith with the words of the Apostles’
Creed, we confess that we believe in one holy, catholic church: "I believe
an (that is, one) holy, catholic church.
Christ through His Spirit creates the church, and Christ
through His Spirit makes the church one. The church is chosen by God from
eternity (Eph. 1:4), redeemed from sin through the blood of the cross (7), and
sovereignly called into existence by the power of the gospel (13).
The text emphasizes this truth as well. We are not (as modern
ecumenists claim) to create the unity of the church. We cannot make the church
one. We are admonished to keep this unity. It is given to us as a gift. We are
to receive it with thanksgiving and treasure it as the greatest of treasures.
In fact, this is really why the unity of the church is called
"the unity of the Spirit." It is a unity which the Spirit creates and which has
its constant source in the work of the Spirit.
We shall continue our discussion of this important text next
time, God willing. For the present, let us meditate on this crucial and
important calling that comes to each of us. Prof. Hanko
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
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