May 2007 • Volume XI, Issue 13
This Passing World (3)
Having considered marriage and weeping and
rejoicing in this passing world (I Cor. 7:29-30), we now turn to the
proper use of our possessions and the world itself (30-31).
Since "the time is short" (29), "they that buy
[should be] as though they possessed not" (30). This does not mean
that we do not own things by purchase and legal right. But all our
possessions—clothes, books, car, house, and so on, including
whatever we value most highly—will pass away. For "the earth also
and the works that are therein shall be burned up" (II Peter 3:10).
In all our shopping and with everything that we own, we need to take
account of this. Those who believe that "they that buy [should be]
as though they possessed not" will not run up crippling debts on
their credit cards nor hoard up their treasures on earth (Matt.
6:19-24) nor fret and worry about what they shall eat or drink or
Because "the fashion of this world passeth away,"
we must "use this world, as not abusing it" (I Cor. 7:31). Abusing
the world includes polluting it and sinfully exploiting it out of
selfishness and greed. Though not "abusing" it, we are to
"use" this world. Here monkery and Anabaptist world-flight are
condemned (5:10). We must use the world for the purposes for which
the Most High has given it, filling it and exercising godly dominion
over it (Gen. 1:26-28; 9:1-7), as prophets, priests and kings
glorifying Jehovah. Even eating and drinking are to be done "to the
glory of God" (I Cor. 10:31; Gen. 1:29-30; 9:2-3; I Tim. 4:1-6). In
this life, our calling is to serve the Lord Jesus Christ as His
stewards, in singleness or marriage and in all our relationships, in
every sphere and institution in which God has placed us. To use this
as an end in itself—worldliness!—is "abusing" it. Against
this the brute creation itself protests indignantly: "God made me
for His glory; you must use me to serve Him!" (cf. Rom. 8:18-22).
Right use of the world and everything in it is using it to seek
first the kingdom of God (Matt. 6:33); anything else is abusing it.
This instruction that "the time is short" and
that "the fashion of this world passeth away" and its calling
regarding marriage, weeping, rejoicing, buying, and using this world
(I Cor. 7:29-31) ought to feature in the Christian’s worldview. We
must use passages like this to think biblically about time, history
and eschatology; the creation, its institutions and everything in
it; and the believer’s culture in the home, in the market, in the
workplace and in the state.
The Christian’s zealous and active life in God’s
creation flows from the electing, regenerating and sanctifying grace
of Jesus Christ and is guided by the sacred Scriptures. Obedience to
the Word in an ungodly world, though blessed by God, brings
persecution from the wicked.
The true children of Abraham, in both Old and New
Testament days, are "heirs with him of the same promise" (Heb. 11:9)
of the heavenly city and country. Thus, like him, we look "for a
city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God" (10)
and we "desire a better country, that is, an heavenly" (16).
Emulating father Abraham, we "sojourn" in this world (9) and confess
that we are "strangers and pilgrims on the earth" (13) and "declare
plainly that [we] seek [the heavenly] country" (14). Those without
this hope and confession are not Abraham’s seed, for God is "ashamed
to be called their God" (16).
Thus a truly Christian worldview does not negate
the believers heavenly citizenship (Phil. 3:20). It is precisely as
one who is "dead," whose "life is hid with Christ in God," who seeks
"those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right
hand of God" and sets his "affection on things above [and] not on
things on the earth" (Col. 3:1-3), that the believer is quickened
and motivated to live in every sphere of life to which the Most High
has called him in the consciousness, comfort and service of the Lord
Jesus Christ. We must do all to the glory of God now, "while it is
day," for "the night cometh, when no man can work" (John 9:4). "The
end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober" (I Peter 4:7).
As regards "Christian Singleness and Marriage"
(our theme for I Corinthians 7), this teaching about the brevity of
time and the passing away of the fashion of this world has at least
two further applications. First, it is of comfort to those in a bad
marriage (including those in a mixed marriage). Christian spouses
can grow in obedience in their God-given roles, with the husband
loving his wife as himself and the wife reverencing her husband
(Eph. 5:33). Through your prayers and godly example, your spouse’s
behaviour may well improve. The submissive, chaste behaviour of a
wife—no nagging!—may even be used to convert her unbelieving husband
(I Peter 3:1-6). But even if there is no improvement, you
must serve the Lord in your marriage, remembering that Christ comes
quickly to reward His people (Rev. 22:12). Second, I Corinthians
7:29-31 is a warning to those (either married or desirous of
marriage) who make an idol of marriage. Marriage is a good gift of
God, a blessed union between one man and one woman, and a picture of
Christ and His church. But for all this, it is temporary and will be
superseded by a far greater consummation in the world to come.
Contact us if you would like us to send you one or both of these
pamphlets: "The Reformed Worldview on Behalf of a Godly Culture"
by Prof. Engelsma (http://cprf.co.uk/pamphlets/reformedworldview.htm)
and "The Christian and Culture" by Rev. Hoeksema (http://cprf.co.uk/pamphlets/christianandculture.htm).
And the king loved Esther above all the
women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight more than all
the virgins; so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made
her queen instead of Vashti (Esth. 2:17).
Having responded to two specific objections in the
last issue of the News, this time I conclude my treatment of
Esther by replying to the reader’s remaining three points.
(3) "What principle kept Mordecai from reverencing
Haman (Esth. 3:2)?"
I do not know why Mordecai refused to bow down to
Haman. As a child listening to this story read from Scripture or told
by my teacher or catechism instructor, I always thought to myself,
"Mordecai was a proud Jew who would not bow before anyone." It may be,
however, that his refusal to bow was rooted in some notion that a Jew
should not bow before a heathen, although so far as I know there was
no law in Israel that a Jew might not bow before someone as a gesture
of respect or of submission to higher authority. Abraham bowed before
the children of Heth (Gen. 23:7).
(4) "Mordecai used his advanced position of
influence for the good of the Jews and their seed. In Esther 10:3, we
read of his ‘seeking the wealth of his people, and speaking peace to
all his seed.’"
It is entirely possible, and, I think, the case,
that Mordecai’s motive through the whole affair was (1) a thirst for
power and (2) a love for his countrymen. As far as the first is
concerned, why did Mordecai almost force Esther into entering the
beauty contest in the first place? He did not know that God intended
it to be a means to save Israel. He knew the evil and promiscuity of
the heathen court; he knew the laws of Israel; he knew the
consequences of such conduct. It seems to me that he saw in all this
an opportunity to advance himself in the court of the king. Even if
Esther had not become queen, but had merely been added to Ahasuerus’
stable of concubines, he would have had some sort of inner access to
power. That Esther would have become at least a concubine is almost
As far as the second point is concerned, a man may
have an entirely natural and patriotic love for his country that
prompts him to do anything for his country’s welfare. I am three
generations removed from the Netherlands, and the Netherlands has
become morally bankrupt and apostate. Yet, even as a child, I hurt
inside when the Nazis raped the Netherlands and held it in virtual
slavery. They did the same to France, but that did not hurt me as
much. I used an example of a soldier in the last issue of the News.
There are many instances of soldiers willing to die for their country
in the annals of British and American warfare.
(5) "Who wrote the book of Esther? We are not told,
yet Esther 9:20 gives us a hint, and Mordecai himself would naturally
seem to be the most probable author. If he was, would God use one not
included in the covenant of grace?"
I do not know who wrote the book of Esther. I have
read the suggestion that Daniel wrote it, for he may himself have been
in the palace of Shushan (Dan. 6:1-3; 9:1-2; cf. 8:2). But whether he
was still living at this time is doubtful. If Mordecai wrote the book,
we might have an explanation why the book does not mention the name of
God. In any case, we ought not build an argument for Mordecai’s
salvation on the remote possibility that he was the man God used to
write the book. We do not know the authors of many books in the Bible.
We do not need to know (if we are not told). We do not need to know
because God, through the Spirit of Christ, is the divine Author.
Anyone today who committed the sins of Esther and
Mordecai would be excommunicated. In the Old Testament, the law
required that they be stoned. God detests such sins. I find it
difficult to imagine that God approved of these sins under these
circumstances; or disapproving of them, nevertheless, left no hint in
the book itself of His fury against such sins.
Finally, to take the position that both Mordecai
and Esther were motivated by love for God not only creates the dilemma
and Jesuistic casuistry that "the end justifies the means," but it
also destroys the whole purpose of the book, namely, to show that God
uses even wicked people to save His church. 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
Rev. Stewart and we will gladly send it to you.