May 2004, Volume X, Issue
Holding the Traditions (2)
Last time, we considered the Roman view of "tradition"
concluding with the question: Is this what II Thessalonians 2:15 ("Therefore,
brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether
by word, or our epistle") has in mind?
The Greek word translated "traditions" carries the idea of
handing something down or passing it on. The ones who handed these things down
to the Thessalonians were the apostle Paul and his helpers, Timothy and Silas
(1:1). They passed these things on by "word, or ... epistle." "Word" includes
preaching (and other forms of oral teaching). Thus Paul writes, "Remember ye
not, that, when I was yet with you, I told ye these things?" (2:5). "Our
epistle" (singular) is I Thessalonians. Thus the tradition of II Thessalonians
2:15 is apostolic testimony handed down either by inspired Scripture (I
Thessalonians) or preaching. Remember that the preaching of Paul (and his
associates)—faithful explanation and application of God’s Word—was in full
accordance with the Scriptures.
What is the content of the "traditions" of II Thessalonians
2:15? Obviously, the heart of it is the gospel of Jesus Christ crucified and
risen for the salvation of His church to the glory of God. I and II
Thessalonians speak especially of Christ’s return for judgment and salvation. II
Thessalonians 2 elaborates on this. Preceding Christ’s return and the
"gathering" of the saints unto Him (1) is the "falling away" and the revelation
of the "man of sin" (3). The man of sin will set himself up "above all that is
called God" (4) and will work miracles in the service of the lie (9). Christ
"shall consume [him] with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy [him] with
the brightness of his coming" (8). God will use the deception of the man of sin
(9-10) in executing His decree of reprobation (11-12). However, those "chosen"
"to salvation" "from the beginning" shall be effectually "called" to "belief of
the truth," "sanctification of the Spirit" and "obtaining of the glory of our
Lord Jesus Christ" (13-14). Moreover, included in the "traditions" are the
"eschatological ethics" which flow from the biblical doctrine of the last times.
These are found especially in I Thessalonians 5:6-28 but also throughout I and
Thus the "traditions" which we must hold fast are biblical
doctrines contained in God-breathed Scripture and church teaching that is
consonant with the written Word of God. This teaching does not add to or
contradict the Scriptures. It merely explains and applies the Word of God.
What then of the church of Rome and her tradition? And what
is the calling of the believer regarding tradition? We shall consider this next
time (DV). Rev. Stewart
Achan’s Sin and Punishment (3)
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).
A reader asks, "Would you please explain to me what was the
accursed thing mentioned in Joshua 7:15, and why was the punishment so severe?"
In the last two articles in the News, I set forth the history
of the sin of Achan, and I explained why the punishment was so severe. I pointed
out that the whole nation of Israel suffered for Achan’s sin because of the
biblical principle of corporate responsibility. Nevertheless, the primary
responsibility rested with Achan who stole some of the accursed things from
Jericho. Achan was responsible for the death of 36 soldiers.
Now I’ll answer the question, "What was the accursed thing?"
First, the accursed thing was the Babylonian garment, the 200
shekels of silver and the 50 shekel wedge of gold (7:21). It was accursed
because it came from Jericho.
Everything in Jericho was accursed (6:17), because the
inhabitants of Jericho were under the curse of God. They were wicked idolaters,
corrupt in morals—as the public harlotry of Rahab showed—and so wicked that they
had filled the cup of iniquity and had become ripe for judgment.
Moreover, many of the possessions of the citizens of Jericho
were used directly in their idolatry. Their other possessions were also used in
sin in various ways. Because of Adam’s sin, the curse came on all the creation.
When the wicked continue to use the things of this world to sin, these things
are accursed, and the wicked along with them.
Simply to take of that which was accursed was to participate
in the sins of Jericho. This can easily be seen in the sin of Achan. Achan
himself admitted that he coveted these things (7:21). That is, he wanted that
which God had not given him. He violated the tenth commandment. He committed
this sin because he wanted Jericho’s riches for himself to use for his own
personal pleasure and not in the service of God. He committed the same sin as
the citizens of Jericho, which city God destroyed.
You may say that Achan did not intend to use the things he
stole for purposes of idolatry or immorality. That may be true, although we do
not know with certainty. There was plenty of idolatry and immorality in Israel,
as is evident from the worship of the golden calf at Sinai. But even if he did
not want to use these things for such outward expressions of the lusts of his
heart, he wanted them for his own personal pleasure, just as Jericho’s citizens
did. As such, it was a transgression of God’s covenant, that if Israel would
walk in the ways of the Lord, God would be their God and they would be His
people (11). But if Israel sought the things of Canaan for the purpose of
becoming like the Canaanites, God would destroy them, as ultimately He did.
The sin of Jericho, basically repeated in the heart of Achan,
was terrible. It was the sin of using God’s good gifts for one’s self and the
service of idols rather than for the glory of God who had made them all. If,
therefore, Jericho was destroyed because of its sin, Achan must be destroyed for
the same sin, especially because Achan knew far more about the will of God than
the citizens of Jericho. Achan had heard God’s law thunder from Sinai; Jericho
We must consider another point. Previously, I called
attention to the fact that the word used in the Hebrew text can mean either
"accursed" or "devoted." Why did the Holy Spirit, who inspired the Scriptures,
chose this word with these two meanings?
It is striking that not all that was in Jericho had to be
burned with fire. We are told that God commanded Joshua that "all the silver,
and gold, and vessels of brass and iron, are consecrated unto the Lord: they
shall come into the treasury of the Lord" (6:19). To be consecrated to the Lord
is the same as being devoted to the Lord. So the stuff of Jericho was both
accursed and devoted: accursed when it was used in the service of sin, and
devoted when it was put into the Lord’s treasury and used for His service.
When Jericho (and Achan) used these things for sin, Jericho
(and Achan) were accursed. And, as long as the accursed thing was in the camp of
Israel, Israel was accursed. They lost 36 fighting men! But when the things of
Jericho were put into the Lord’s treasury, they were devoted to the Lord. Those
who used them in the service of God were also devoted to the Lord, and God’s
blessing was on them.
The Lord’s treasury was a unique expression of consecration
to the Lord, because it was in the tabernacle, and, later, in the temple. These
earthly things, themselves under the curse, are now devoted to God and are,
therefore, pure and blessed.
Thus the punishment which Achan received for his dreadful sin
(7:23-26) was just and right. God is so holy that all must be devoted to Him,
and that which is not devoted to Him is accursed.
The valley where Achan was stoned was called the Valley of
Achor (7:26). The name Achor is a play on Achan’s name, and the word means
"troubling," because Achan had troubled Israel. Two prophets point to God’s
gracious work in connection with that valley. Isaiah 65:10 reads: "And Sharon
shall be a fold of flocks, and the valley of Achor a place for the herds to lie
down in, for my people that have sought me." Hosea 2:15 prophesies, "And I will
give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope:
and she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when
she came up out of the land of Egypt."
Next time (DV), we’ll consider some practical implications of
this history of Achan. Prof. H. Hanko
Not Willing That Any Should Perish (1)
A reader notes that II Peter 3:9 is often used by Arminians
against God’s eternal reprobation. He asks for the true interpretation of the
Many half-quote and misapply II Peter 3:9, in preaching, in
discussion and even in prayer. They tell God that He is "not willing that any
should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (thinking that this means
that He desires to save everybody) before asking for the salvation of their
Pray for the conversion of your unbelieving friends and
family (according to God’s will)! But do not build your petitions on a false
view of God! If God really desires to save all head for head, then why are they
not saved? Is His hand too short or His arm too weak? Is His will thwarted? Do
His purposes depend on the will of puny man, so that though God wishes to save
everybody, most won’t let Him? The true God "is in the heavens: he hath done
whatsoever he hath pleased" (Ps. 115:3). Any god who does not do what he pleases
is not in the heavens. He is only in man’s head.
Yet does the verse not say that God is "not willing that any
should perish?" But what does "any" mean here? And what is the context in II
We’ll consider the latter question first. Scoffers are
denying Christ’s second coming (3). "Everything continues much as it has done,"
they say (4). (The modern "scientific" equivalent of this is
"uniformitarianism.") Peter explains, that these people are willingly ignorant
of the universal flood which destroyed the world in Noah’s day (5-6). All things
have not continued as they were from the creation!
Contrary to the scoffers, Peter affirms that "the day of the
Lord will come" (10). It will be "a day of judgment and perdition of ungodly
men" (7). Man judges time from his own creaturely perspective, but things are
viewed differently by the eternal God who created time: "one day is with the
Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (8). Today, people
doubt if Christ is really coming back because almost 2,000 years have passed,
but with God it is only as two days, so to speak! God "is not slack concerning
his promise" of the return of Christ, though foolish men may wrongly reckon that
He is (9). Peter concludes his argument by explaining why Christ has not yet
returned: the Lord "is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should
perish, but that all should come to repentance" (9).
If "all," here, means all head for head, then Christ has not
yet returned because He wants to save everybody. However, some have already
perished in their sins, and not all who are living or who are yet to be born
will be saved. Thus Christ will never return. Therefore, there will be no final
judgment (7), no purging of this fallen creation (7, 10-12) and no new heavens
and new earth (13). Thus we lose a vital incentive for godliness (11-14). God’s
promise (4, 9) is a lie and the church’s hope (12-14) a delusion, for Christ is
not coming back. The Arminian (and free offer) view of II Peter 3:9 destroys
eschatology, the faithfulness of God, and the salvation of the church! Rev.
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