Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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May 2009 • Volume XII, Issue 13


Grieving the Holy Spirit (2)

It is not only corrupt speech (Eph. 4:29) that grieves the Holy Spirit (30). Lying (25) grieves the Spirit, for He is the Spirit of truth. Sinful anger (26-27) grieves the Spirit, for He is the Spirit of self-control. Stealing (28) grieves the Spirit, for He is the Spirit who works and enables us to labour honestly. The verse after our text lists other sins which grieve the Spirit: "bitterness," "wrath," "anger," "clamour," "evil speaking" and "malice" (31). These things are abhorred by the heavenly dove and drive Him away from our breasts.

Notice that these sins are sins against our brothers and sisters in the church. Do not lie, "for we are members one of another" (25). Do not steal but work in order to help those who are in need (28). Use wholesome, not corrupt, speech "that it may minister grace unto the hearers" (29). Instead of "bitterness," "malice," etc., we must be "kind one to another" (31-32). Thus the prohibition of sinful anger (26-27) especially deals with our fellow saints in the church. If you go to bed at night without confessing the evil of wrath against your brother or sister, you are not only giving place to the devil (26-27), you are also giving him room to work destruction through you in the church, the body of Jesus Christ. And you are grieving the Spirit, the Spirit of love and communion.

At this someone might protest, "I was bitter only towards my sister; I spoke harshly only to my brother; I sinned only in a particular area of my life. I did not realize that the Holy Spirit was involved. I did not intend to grieve Him!" You did not intend to, but you did. We must use the truth of Ephesians 4:30 (in its context) to fight against our iniquities, realising that it is not only that corrupt speech and all these other things transgress the law but also that they grieve the blessed Spirit. Surely, we do not wish to treat the Holy Spirit unkindly or disrespectfully, or displease Him. We do not want Him to withdraw or depart from us with the comforts of the gospel of Christ. We need Him. We pray for His presence with us. We love Him as God’s Spirit and Christ’s representative, who makes us enjoy the blessings of the covenant of grace.

The result of grieving the Holy Spirit is not the loss of salvation, for this would overthrow the preservation and perseverance of the saints. We are God’s inviolable property—past, present and future—"ye are sealed unto the day of redemption" (30). The Spirit, personally, is this seal.

The result of grieving the Holy Spirit is the loss of our assurance. This is the rationale of the text: "And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption." Grieving the Spirit results in His withdrawing from us His gracious operation of assurance as a seal (cf. Covenant Reformed News XII:8-9). Thus lying (25), sinful anger (26-27), stealing (28), corrupt speech (29), "bitterness," "wrath," "anger," "clamour," "evil speaking" and "malice" (31), as well as other sins, especially those against our fellow believers in the church, grieve the Spirit and cause us to lose our assurance.

Do you have assurance that you belong to Jesus Christ, that He died for your sins, that you were chosen in Him before the foundation of the world, that you are His forever? If you do not, there is something wrong. Have you been grieving the Spirit by sinning against the saints? Repent, child of God, and believe in the power of the cross of Christ for forgiveness and sanctification!

When we grieve the Spirit, the Spirit grieves us; we are grieved too. You respond, "But Ephesians 4:30 does not say this!" Ah, but it logically follows. When we grieve the Spirit, He withdraws from us. Remember that He is the Comforter! Withdrawal of the Comforter means we lose comfort and thus experience sorrow and pangs of conscience—grief! Loss of assurance is itself grief. No longer convinced of the Father’s hearty love for you; not sure if you are His child; walking in spiritual darkness and coldness; what else is this but grief! It is grief too for your family, your fellow saints and your church’s office-bearers, who are to look after your spiritual health. Ultimately and by sheer grace, the Spirit brings us to the wholesome grief of true repentance!

When Christians become deeply backslidden, especially if, for example, they sinfully stop attending church for some time, their whole lives become ones of grief. The Bible remains unread; they lose all joy from the communion of the saints. They are filled with guilt, losing all comfort and becoming deeply miserable. Sometimes they even waste their time and make things worse by going to secular psychologists, who try to alleviate their guilt in humanistic ways rather than pointing them to the cross of Christ. The grieved Christian may even sink to the depths of blaming God: "Look at the mess I’m in, and He does not do anything for me!" What about the atoning death of His Son? Is this not the central thing that He has done for us? "Why does He not assure me of His love?" He has written it in blood in the Scriptures, which tell us that His love is experienced as we walk in the light. "But He does not hear my prayers!" But what are you asking for? What about coming to Him with words such as these: "Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee." The Father’s arms are stretched out for you; the fatted calf is ready; you will experience once again the formerly grieved Spirit as a seal of assurance and the blessed Comforter! Rev. Stewart

Was Jacob a Father of Nations?

Genesis 48:19 reads, "And his father [i.e., Jacob] refused, and said, I know it, my son [i.e., Joseph], I know it: he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations." A reader asks, "Was Jacob/Israel also the ancestor of nations other than Israel (Gen. 48:19)? If so, were they all Jewish/Israelitish and Hebrew speaking or not?"

The aged Jacob has just pronounced the blessing on Joseph’s two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. This blessing of Joseph’s two sons was done separately from the blessing of the other eleven sons. This blessing was undoubtedly before Jacob’s blessing of his other sons, because Joseph received part of the birthright blessing. Judah received that part of the blessing that made him lord of his brethren, and that most important part of the blessing, the covenant promise: Christ came from Judah. But Joseph received the double portion of his father’s inheritance because Joseph had two tribes among the twelve tribes: Manasseh and Ephraim.

Joseph brought Manasseh to a spot where Jacob could put his right hand on Manasseh’s head, and Joseph placed Ephraim where Jacob could reach him with his left hand. Joseph did this because Manasseh was the firstborn and ordinarily the firstborn received the birthright. The blessing of Jacob with his right hand gave to the one being blessed the pre-eminence. But when Jacob blessed the two boys, he crossed his arms so that his right hand was on Ephraim’s head and his left hand on Manasseh’s head. He did this because Ephraim, though not the firstborn, would occupy a place of pre-eminence over Manasseh. Joseph attempted to change the blessing so that the firstborn would have the pre-eminence, apparently thinking that Jacob made a mistake due to poor vision. But Jacob insisted on giving Ephraim the pre-eminence. And so it proved to be as Jacob’s prophecy was fulfilled. In fact, the Northern Kingdom was sometimes given the name Ephraim, indicating that Ephraim had a certain pre-eminence in Israel.

A better translation of "and his seed shall become a multitude of nations" is "and his seed shall become a fulness of people." It was a further explanation of "his younger brother shall be greater than he." That is, the tribe of Ephraim would be greater in number than the tribe of Manasseh. Throughout Scripture, Ephraim is more prominent than Manasseh.

Ephraim is not the father of a multitude of nations, for that designation belonged only to Abraham. The name Abraham means father of nations (17:5-6). In a certain sense, Isaac and Jacob could also be called fathers of nations, for the covenant blessing of the birthright went from Abraham to Isaac to Jacob to Judah and eventually to David, Solomon and Christ Himself. Yet the name especially fits Abraham and not those in the line of Christ who followed him.

There is a good reason why only Abraham could rightly bear that name and be what his name meant. With Abraham, God revealed a new truth with regard to His everlasting covenant, which He established with His elect people in Christ. That truth is the wonder that God saves His elect in the line of generations. While prior to Abraham God had also established and maintained His covenant in a line of generations, God had never explicitly made this clear to His people. Already in Paradise, God had told Adam and Eve that there would be war between the seed of the serpent and the seed of Christ (3:15). That suggests God’s work of realizing His covenant from the generations of His people. But God had never made a point of that stupendous truth. God did this explicitly when He told Abraham, "I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant" (17:7).

It is, of course, here that we have the crux of our controversy with Baptists: Who are the seed of Abraham? Baptists (and the Pharisees of Jesus’ day [John 8:33, 39, 53]) say the Jew only is the seed of Abraham. And, so Baptists teach, that in the new dispensation, only believers are the seed of Abraham.

As such, this is true, but Baptists mean that one can become a child of Abraham only by believing in Christ. And so children of believers, who are too young to believe, cannot be children of Abraham. The Scriptures speak differently.

Already in the old dispensation, God established His covenant in the line of generations. That means, first of all, that only in the line of generations did Christ come into the world. In fact, Christ is always centrally the seed of Abraham. When God said to Abraham, "I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee," Galatians 3:16 tells us that the meaning of what God said to Abraham was, "I will establish my covenant between Me and thee and Christ."

The distinction Scripture makes is not between children and adults, but between elect and reprobate (Rom. 9:6-13). The seed of Abraham are those who belong to Christ. These elect and redeemed people of God are to be found in the line of generations. This is true throughout the whole of history. Never, in all Scripture, is the "seed of Abraham" used to designate a Jew who is merely a natural descendant of Abraham. The term always refers to the elect children of God. Of course, they are also believers, for those whom God elected also receive from Him the gift of faith. But they are elect from the moment of conception, and they constitute the true seed of Abraham (Rom. 2:28-29; 4:16-18).

Whether one is Jew or Gentile, rich or poor, master or slave, male or female, adult or child (or baby)—those who are elect are children of Abraham. Abram is rightly called Abraham, father of many nations, for the redeemed are gathered from every nation under heaven. Prof. Hanko

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