Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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May 2008 • Volume XII, Issue 1


Election, the Source of the Church (3)

The knowledge of the election of the church (including ourselves as living members of Christ) is vital, not least, for our sense of belonging. Believer, you belong to the Triune God wholly and completely, now, and from your regeneration to the end of your days here and throughout all eternity in the new heavens and the new earth. You belonged to Christ when He was on the cross, for you were in Him and died to sin with Him (Rom. 6:2-6). Moreover, you belonged to the Father in eternity, because you were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). You are beloved in Him and possessed everlastingly by the Triune God! Let us sing His praises!

You and I, and all the saints on earth, and all the faithful who have died before us, and all the elect who are yet to be effectually called in the future, together belong to God in Christ. The eternal state will reveal to us the wonderful blessedness of this. In eternity past, all the church was elected together in Christ. In eternity future, all the church together will perfectly enjoy the fruits of our election from before the foundation of the world.

Thus elect saints in these last days belong together in true Reformed churches. Those chosen as part of the organism of the church belong in faithful instituted congregations. This includes our elect children. The Ephesian church, addressed as "blessed" and elect (3-4), includes the seed of believers (6:1-4). Of course, not all physical children of believers are elect: "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated" (Rom. 9:13). Elect, covenant children belong everlastingly in God’s church and, therefore, belong in a Reformed congregation, manifesting the three marks of a true church. Families with their children and individuals must remain in or seek out and join a biblical church and there hear and obey the preaching of God’s Word, partake of the Christian sacraments and submit to church government and (where necessary) church discipline (Belgic Confession 28-29).

The knowledge of the election of the church is vital also for evangelism. The true church is convinced that the chief means of converting unbelievers is the preaching of God’s Word—not puppets, "messages in song" or other gimmicks. We are convinced that God uses and blesses the means He has ordained to gather His elect church. In this confidence, we witness of Christ to unbelievers and seek to bring them under the proclamation of His gospel, which is "the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth" (Rom. 1:16), namely, the elect.

When unbelievers repent, this is, therefore, not for the glory of the preacher or the church. The glory belongs to the Triune God, who irresistibly and yet sweetly calls those whom He chose in Christ before the foundation of the earth.

If few repent, do not despair, "For many are [externally] called, but few are chosen" (Matt. 22:14). Noah, "a preacher of righteousness" (II Peter 2:5), and Jeremiah also had few converts. The Lord declares, "my word … shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it" (Isa. 55:11). The Scriptures explain that "as many as were ordained to eternal life believed" (Acts 13:48), and as many as were not ordained to eternal life do not believe but are hardened (Ex. 4:21; Rom. 9:18).

If the church is very small or even tiny, we must remember that God’s truth concerning the church is not confessed on the basis of sight. "I believe an holy, catholic church"—because the Bible says so. It is not a matter of experience or observation but of revelation. This is what Elijah had to learn in a day of apostasy and persecution (I Kings 19): "I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace" (Rom. 11:4-5).

Now we are in a position to see the foolishness of ministers and churches in ignoring the election of the church. They do not know where the church comes from, why it is the size it is, or why it must be gathered the way the Bible requires! Thus in their evangelism they are open to all sorts of unbiblical innovations seeking to persuade people to "Let Jesus be your Saviour."

Moreover, ministers and churches who deny the election of the church rip the heart out of the church, for election is the cor ecclesiae (the heart of the church). Such false teachers attack the church; they attack the church at its very source: election. Denying God’s unconditional election, the church can only be a gather-up of people who used their free will aright, and not the temple and body of Christ eternally planned and graciously formed exclusively by the Most High. The church of Jesus Christ was elected before the foundation of the world and not after the cheap decisions of sinners.

So let us embrace the truth of God’s Word and bless God for His election of His church. This doctrine leads us to worship Him, for it is "to the praise of the glory of his grace" (Eph. 1:6; cf. 12, 14). However, unconditional election would kill many "praise services" with their "praise leaders," "praise groups" and "Christian rock." As Calvin puts it, "Those who will not speak of predestination or are even reluctant to speak of predestination are mortal enemies of God’s praise." Only the election of the church leads to true worship and humility before God: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love" (3-4). Rev. Stewart

Lending and Expecting No Repayment (1)

And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful (Luke 6:33-36).

A reader asks, "I have borrowed from other Christians in the past but I have never had one tell me he does not expect repayment. Given the above verses, do you think a Christian should expect to repay a loan?"

The Monday night Bible class, in which I lead young adults, has been studying Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount—although we are studying the sermon as recorded in Matthew 5-7, rather than in Luke 6. At the conclusion of this year’s meetings, we had just finished Matthew 5, the last verses of which contain similar material. I mention this because the class often had problems taking Jesus’ words literally. They could not understand that Jesus would make such drastic demands of those to whom He was speaking. Taking Jesus’ words literally in the passage quoted above is necessary. Why should we alter the meaning of what He says? Is there any reason in the text itself to make this passage (as well as others like it) have some other meaning than what lies on the surface? Obviously, there is not. If our Lord says that we may not give money with the expectation of being repaid, He means exactly what He says, and we must not try to alter His words. We may think the demands of Christ are beyond our capability; the fault then lies with us. We may live in a world that requires full payment of every debt, but we are not of the world. Let us not find ways and means to give Jesus’ words a meaning that will perhaps salve our own consciences—even when other Christians expect repayment from us.

Nevertheless, we must understand what Jesus is saying here and the context in which He says it. First of all, the Sermon on the Mount, recorded in Matthew 5-7 (and a part of which is repeated in Luke 6), has sometimes been called, "The Constitution of the Kingdom of Heaven." That is a good and accurate name for it. While it is perhaps not necessary to discuss the implications of this fact in detail, it certainly means that Jesus is setting down principles by which those who are citizens of the kingdom of heaven must live in this world. They belong to a kingdom and are citizens of a kingdom which is not of this world, but belongs to heaven. But they are called to live in this world as citizens of the Christ’s kingdom. How are they to do this? They are, after all, surrounded by wicked men with whom they come into contact daily. How must they live in relation to wicked people? That is the question.

The answer to this question is, Love thy neighbour as thyself. That is the point Jesus is making here, beginning with Luke 6:27. If one would ask, as a lawyer once did, "But who is my neighbour?" the answer would be that person whom God puts on our pathway and who needs us and our help. A neighbour may be a child of God—our spouse, our children, our father or mother, our fellow saint. That neighbour may also be an unbeliever—a fellow worker, the man next door, a beggar who comes to us, the man at the petrol station where we fill our car, the surly clerk in the store, etc. God puts people on our path. We cannot get around them, except by ignoring them. We brush shoulders with them. We have to give them, be it but momentarily, our attention.

Another question that must be considered is, What does it mean to love our neighbour? The answer to this question is, To seek our neighbour’s good. To seek our neighbour’s good means to give him groceries, if he and his family do not have enough to eat. It means to let him use our car, if he needs transportation. It means to take him to the doctor (at whatever inconvenience to us), if he cannot get to the doctor himself. But above all, loving our neighbour means doing what we can to save him. We must tell him that we help him in the name of Christ; that Christ has helped us though we deserved nothing except hell; that we want nothing so much as to see our neighbour go to heaven. If our neighbour is already a citizen of the kingdom of heaven, we help such a neighbour (our wives or husbands, our children or cousins, our fellow saints or God’s people in Myanmar) along the difficult path of the pilgrim’s trail. If our neighbour is an unbeliever, we tell him of the joys of salvation, of his need of repentance and confession of sin, of the power of the cross to save those who believe in Christ, and that we help because we have been helped by grace beyond anything we can imagine.

The text is speaking about neighbours who are unbelievers (cf. 27-29). Jesus is talking here about how a citizen of the kingdom ought to live in relation to an unbelieving neighbour. He uses concrete illustrations. A neighbour needs some money and he asks you to loan him some money. Give it to him, Jesus says. And give it to him without taking a look at your bank account to see whether you will have enough left to buy groceries for the week. Just give it. And when you give it, do not give it expecting repayment. Do not charge him interest of 6%. Do not give him a deadline when the loan comes due. Just give what he needs. The people in the world, the "sinners," loan money at fixed rates of interest and with scheduled repayments. Citizens of the kingdom of heaven do not do that.  Prof. Hanko   ... to be concluded

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