Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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November 2004, Volume X, Issue 7


Receiving Preaching as the Word of God (1)

In response to detractors in Thessalonica, the apostle Paul affirmed that he did not preach his own opinions but the pure Word of God: "when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh in you that believe" (I Thess. 2:13).

The Word of God mentioned here is not simply the Word of God written (the OT) for Paul tells us that he spoke (4) and "preached" (9) it. Thus the Thessalonians "received the word of God which ye heard of us" (13). The word "us" (13) indicates that not only Paul’s preaching but also that of Timothy and Silvanus (or Silas) (1:1) was the Word of God. In fact, God speaks His Word through all preachers "sent" by Christ who faithfully expound the Scriptures (Rom. 10:14-15). I Thessalonians 2:13 calls preaching "the word of God" twice adding that it is the Word of God "in truth." Thus the Second Helvetic Confession (1566) declares, "The preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God." The Westminster Larger Catechism states, "It is required of those that hear the word preached that they ... receive the truth ... as the word of God" (A. 160).

The doctrine that the faithful preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God requires clarification. Does it not confuse preaching and the Bible, some might ask? Indeed, preaching and the Bible need to be distinguished. The Bible is the Word of God written; preaching is the Word of God preached. The Bible is infallible; preaching is fallible. The Bible is the standard for truth; preaching needs to be tested by the standard of Scripture. Preaching is the Word of God in a derivative sense taking its authority from the Bible.

Though the Scriptures are sufficient as God’s written revelation, Christ has instituted the visible church as the pillar and ground of His truth (I Tim. 3:15) to hold it up in the world chiefly by preaching, the proclamation of God’s Word. Faithful preaching opens up, explains and applies the written Word, for as the Westminster Confession states, "The whole counsel of God ... is either expressly set down in scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from scripture" (1:6). As a faithful exposition of the Word of God by a sent and ordained man, preaching is the Word of God. In faithful preaching, God speaks; Christ speaks; the Holy Spirit speaks.

In a synagogue in Thessalonica, for "three sabbath days [Paul] reasoned with [the Jews] out of the scriptures, opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ" (Acts 17:2-3). This preaching "is in truth, the word of God" (I Thess. 2:13). Rev. Stewart

The Eternal Covenant With Levi (2)

For thus saith the Lord; David shall never want a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel; Neither shall the priests the Levites want a man before me to offer burnt offerings, and to kindle meat offerings, and to do sacrifice continually. And the word of the Lord came unto Jeremiah, saying, Thus saith the Lord; If ye can break my covenant of the day, and my covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their season; then may also my covenant be broken with David my servant, that he should not have a son to reign upon his throne; and with the Levites the priests, my ministers (Jer. 33:17-21).

The question that was submitted with this text is: "How has the promise to the Levites been fulfilled?"

We ended our discussion of this passage from Jeremiah in the last News by pointing out that the promise of God is really a promise of the full realization of His covenant of grace; that, indeed, the text itself speaks of God’s covenant, though it refers to God’s covenant with the creation. We also noticed that God reveals to Judah that the covenant rests upon His faithfulness and His work. Just as man is unable to break God’s covenant of the day and of the night, so man is unable to break God’s covenant with His people. Hence, His promise to restore the monarchy of David and the priesthood of Levi will surely be fulfilled.

What a great comfort that was to Judah and is to us! Judah was unfaithful. The nation broke God’s covenant and worshiped idols. The nation brought upon itself the fierce wrath of God resulting in the captivity. From every human point of view, that was the end of the nation. But God is faithful. He will not forget His covenant. He maintains it as surely as He maintains the cycle of day and night in the creation!

So also for us the same is true. Many want to make God’s covenant with His people a conditional covenant. In that case, the realization of God’s covenant rests upon our fulfilment of the conditions attached to the covenant. How utterly hopeless! How hopeless for Judah about to go to captivity as the just reward of their terrible sins. How hopeless for us who always transgress God’s covenant and make ourselves unworthy of His blessing! But God maintains His covenant! That is the great theme of this text.

What is that final fulfilment of the prophecy of Jeremiah—of which we have spoken so frequently? The prophecy is specifically said to be "David shall never want a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel" (17); and, "Neither shall the priests the Levites want a man before me to offer burnt offerings, and to kindle meat offerings, and to do sacrifice continually" (18). In other words, there will be an everlasting establishment of the throne of David and an everlasting restoration of the Levitical priesthood.

It is clear that this fulfilment takes place in the coming and work of our Lord Jesus Christ. Is this so strange? Was this so strange to the elect in Judah? That remnant who looked with longing to the day when the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent? Was it strange to that small number of elect who knew that their full salvation had to come from God alone?

The Scriptures are clear that Christ is the fulfilment of this promise. Christ is the fulfilment of the promise made to David: "Then thou spakest in vision to thy holy one, and saidst, I have laid help upon one that is mighty; I have exalted one chosen out of the people. I have found David my servant ... Also I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth. My mercy will I keep for him for evermore, and my covenant shall stand fast with him. His seed also will I make to endure for ever, and his throne as the days of heaven" (Ps. 89:19-20, 27-29).

And then we read these glorious words of God’s faithfulness in contrast to our unfaithfulness: "If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; if they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. [This threat, for Judah, was the captivity.] Nevertheless my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail. My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David. His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me. It shall be established for ever as the moon [cf. God’s covenant with the day and with the night, in Jeremiah 33:20], and as a faithful witness in heaven" (Ps. 89:30-37).

No wonder the angel Gabriel, in informing Mary that she was to be the mother of Christ, said to her, "Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end" (Luke 1:30-33).

The prophecy of Jeremiah was fulfilled in the coming of Christ! In Him God establishes the heavenly kingdom of which Judah was but a dim picture.

When one of the elders came to John to tell him that One who was worthy was found to open the book of God’s counsel, he tells John, "Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof" (Rev. 5:5). When Christ Himself closes the book of Revelation and promises the church that He will come to bring her to glory, he says, "I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star. And the Spirit and the bride say, Come ..." (22:16-17). Prof. Hanko

God’s Will to Save All Men (2)

Last time we saw that the free offer view of I Timothy 2:4 (God "will have all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth") leads inescapably to Arminianism’s universal atonement. For if God desires to save "all" absolutely (including the reprobate), then Christ must have died for "all" absolutely (including the reprobate) (6).

What then is the true interpretation? To answer this question, we must consider the context. The apostle is speaking about prayer and for whom it must be made: "I exhort ... that ... supplications, prayers, intercessions, giving of thanks, be made for all men" (1). Paul continues by specifying: "For kings, and for all that are in authority." He then gives two reasons why we should pray for those in civil government.

First, we must pray for them "that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty" (2). Thus we are to pray for magistrates that they will maintain law and order. Then Christians ("we") may "lead quiet and peaceable [lives] in all godliness and honesty," for we can worship God publicly on the Lord’s Day and serve Him at home, school, work and in the world without being attacked by mobs or hauled off to prison. Even this prayer is, of course, subject to God decree, for He wills civil unrest and/or government persecution of the saints at various times and in various places. Thus it is a lawful, good and commanded thing to pray (subject to God’s will) for the civil magistrates that God would use them to restrain wicked men so that we, His people, may individually and collectively serve him in our respective callings. This petition, Paul tells Timothy, must be brought before God in congregational prayer.

Second, we must pray for civil magistrates, "For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (3-4). Is there any point praying for the conversion of Prime Minister Tony Blair or Taoiseach Bertie Ahern or any rulers of this world? I Timothy 2 tells us that God can and will save "kings" and those "that are in authority," according to His eternal election. So we must pray for the conversion of earthly potentates and not only those of lowly station, as we might otherwise be inclined. For God wills to save (and will save, for His will is never defeated) all kinds of people.

Augustine (354-430) put it well: "Now the apostle had enjoined that prayers should be made for all men, and had especially added, ‘For kings, and for all that are in authority,’ who might be supposed, in the pride and pomp of worldly station, to shrink from the humility of the Christian faith. Then saying, ‘For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour,’ that is, that prayers should be made for such as these, he immediately adds, as if to remove any ground of despair, ‘Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth’ ... Our Lord ... says to the Pharisees: ‘Ye tithe mint, and rue, and every herb.’ For the Pharisees did not tithe what belonged to others, nor all the herbs of all the inhabitants of other lands. As ... in this place we must understand by ‘every herb,’ every kind of herb, so in the former passage we may understand by ‘all men,’ every sort of men" (The Enchiridion, ciii). Rev. Stewart

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