Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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October 2004, Volume X, Issue 6


The Church, the Pillar and Ground of the Truth (3)

What means does God use to hold up his truth in the world? Is it angels? No. Angels appeared to men on earth only occasionally even in biblical times, and now not at all until Christ’s return. Are individual Christians the pillar and ground of the truth? No, though individual believers do have an important role to play in witnessing of Christ. What about Christian families? They are the building blocks of the church, but they are not the pillar and ground of the truth. What about the civil government? Its calling is to punish evil-doers and reward well-doers (I Peter 2:14), but it is not the pillar and ground of the truth. What of the false church? It is the pillar and ground of the lie, holding up before the world the false gospel as if it were the true gospel.

"The church of the living God"—not Billy Graham crusades, not mission halls, not lay preachers—is "the pillar and ground of the truth" (I Tim. 3:15). God is in the church for it is "the house of God" in which He dwells by His Spirit (14). Jesus Christ speaks through faithful teaching and catechising by true ministers of His Word. Thus the church—and the church alone—is the pillar and ground of the truth.

From all of this we learn, first, the dignity of the church. No other body on earth is the pillar and ground of the truth. Without faithful churches the truth of God in the world would fall to the ground. Let us esteem true churches highly! Second, here we have a test for churches. Does a particular congregation or denomination function as the pillar and ground of the truth? Does it hold up all of the truth or most of the truth or some of the truth? Does it hold up lies as if they were the truth? Some churches do so little teaching that it is as if they are pillars which hold up nothing at all! This test, whether or not a church holds up God’s truth faithfully, enables us to determine the purity of a church. Try the spirits, including the churches, by God’s Word (I John 4:1). Believers must discern a truth-upholding church in order to remain members of it or join it. Third, this teaches us the solemn calling of a minister. He must know how he ought to "behave" in a true church which is nothing less than a "pillar and ground of the truth" (I Tim. 3:14-15). His behaviour or conduct here especially includes his preaching. He must preach knowing that there is only one truth and not two. The truth must be preached with certainty and without fear of man. The minister must "speak as the oracles of God" (I Peter 4:11). He must be careful not to mix wood, hay and stubble with the pure truth of God’s Word (I Cor. 3:10-15). Fourth, the calling of elders in a church (which is to be "the pillar and ground of the truth") includes ensuring that the truth and the truth alone is held up. Thus they must correct the minister if he preaches error and defend him if he is attacked for preaching the truth. 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 regarding the Levites been fulfilled?"

In the last issue of the News, we pointed out that this prophecy of Jeremiah, made during the siege of Jerusalem by the armies of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, had its historical Old Testament fulfilment in the return of the nation. But we concluded with the words that this could not possibly be the complete fulfilment of this prophecy.

There are several reasons for saying this.

First, although David’s line was preserved, David’s son never sat on David’s throne again. The prophecy was: "David shall not want a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel" (17).

Second, if the prophecy referred only to the nation of Israel, it was never fulfilled, for the nation ceased to exist in any form in AD 70, when the Roman armies under Titus utterly destroyed the city of Jerusalem. Nor does Scripture look for some future fulfilment of the prophecy in the earthly establishment of David’s throne and a restoration of the service of God in the temple.

Third, while the worship of God in the temple was restored under Zerubbabel the ruler of the people and Joshua the high priest, it never was the glorious worship of God that characterized Israel’s worship in the days of Solomon. The ark of the covenant was not in the Most Holy Place; a rock stood there. The cloud of glory that filled the temple, which signified the presence of God among His people, never returned.

Israel knew, when Jeremiah made this prophecy, that they had to look for a fuller, a more blessed, a more spiritual fulfilment than the mere return to the land of Canaan.

Before we take a look at that more spiritual fulfilment, there are a couple of points in the text quoted above which are sufficiently important to discuss briefly.

Our readers will recall that we spoke of the fact that Israel as a theocracy was built on the twin pillars of Israel’s monarchy and Israel’s priesthood. The former was occupied by David and his sons; the latter by the priests of the tribe of Levi. Both are referred to in the text. God ruled through David, and Israel worshipped through the sacrifices of the Levites.

Many people make the error of assuming that the monarchy has a New Testament fulfilment in a particular nation which God chooses to be a special object of His favour. Thus the covenanters attempted to establish a theocracy in Scotland; the Dutch attempted to do the same in the Netherlands; and some in America think that the same can be accomplished in that land.

The theocracy of Israel in the Old Testament was a part of the dispensation of types and shadows. It was, therefore, only a type of a reality to come with the coming of Christ. That Old Testament monarchy, therefore, had its fulfilment in the church of Christ gathered throughout the entire dispensation by the gospel and from every nation in the earth. The monarchy of Israel has its complete fulfilment, not here on earth, but in the new heavens and the new earth which shall be realized at the end of the age when Christ comes again.

This is the reason why the text speaks of God’s covenant of the day and of the night. The reference is to the covenant which God established with the whole creation after the flood: "And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you; and with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth ... And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth" (Gen. 9:9-13).

God promises not only to establish His covenant with His people, but also with the whole creation. That God will certainly fulfil His promise is guaranteed in the ceaseless cycle of day and night in our present world. As surely as God causes day to follow night and night to follow day, so also will God guide the entire creation to its determined end: redemption through Christ in the new heavens and the new earth.

Here in the text this promise of the redemption of the creation sealed in the unending cycle of day and night is the guarantee of God’s promise to restore His people from their captivity.

But one additional point deserves notice. The text says, "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 ..." The emphasis falls on the little word "Ye." God is saying: "If you are able to break My covenant with creation, then you are able to break also My covenant with My people. But you cannot do that. I maintain the cycle of day and night in the creation. The progression of days and nights is not in your hands. So also My covenant with you is not in your hands, but in Mine. That is the certainty of my unconditional covenant! It is all of My sovereign grace!" Prof. H. Hanko

God's Will to Save All Men (1)

God "will have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth" (I Tim. 2:4). Many, including Iain Murray and J. I. Packer (who, sadly, has compromised justification by faith alone), reckon that this verse teaches a will or desire in God for the salvation of all men including the reprobate (the free offer or well-meant offer of the gospel). The argument is that "all" means everybody without exception (Esau as well as Jacob; Judas as well as Peter).

Two objections immediately arise against this view. First, if God wills or desires or wishes or wants to save absolutely everybody, then His will has been thwarted with regard to millions, nay billions, of people. A thwarted will means (and must mean) frustration. God wanted something (the salvation of the reprobate), but His will (somehow) was thwarted, therefore He must be frustrated. What then of God’s mighty power and perfect blessedness? Also this view posits a will of the omnipotent, unchangeable and eternal God which is not irresistible, unchangeable and eternal.

Second, if God really desires absolutely everybody "to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth," then why did He not see to it that the gospel was preached to them. In the Old Testament days, only Israel had God’s Word (Ps. 147:19-20) for God "suffered all nations to walk in their own [pagan] ways" (Acts 14:16). Even in the New Testament age, many never hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. Could God really want all the reprobate to "come to the knowledge of the truth" (the end) but never see to it that many of them have the truth proclaimed to them (the necessary means to this end)?

Another problem for the free offer view of I Timothy 2:4 arises from the context. If "all" in verse 4 means absolutely everyone, then in verse 6 it must mean absolutely everyone as well. If God desires to save all without exception (4)—the free offer view—then "the one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus" (5) "gave himself a ransom for all" (6) understood as absolutely everyone—the heresy of universal atonement. Read I Timothy 2:4-6 (noting the "For" with which verse 5 begins) and you will see that the free offer view leads inescapably to Arminianism’s universal atonement.

We have already refuted universal atonement (CR News, vol. IX, issues 7-14), but we also ought to note that it is excluded by I Timothy 2:6 itself, which calls Christ’s death a "ransom." A ransom is a price that it is paid to deliver a captive. If Christ really paid the ransom for absolutely all men, then all are ransomed, i.e. delivered from the bondage of sin. Christ did not potentially ransom people (with the ransom depending on man’s alleged free will); He actually ransomed them. In I Timothy 2:6, lutron (ransom) comes with the prefix anti (instead of, corresponding): a ransom instead of, or corresponding to, us. This makes the substitutionary character of Christ’s death particularly clear. He gave Himself a ransom for us in our place and stead. "The Son of man," Jesus said, came "to give his life a ransom for many" (Matt. 20:28).

Next time (DV) which shall consider the true interpretation of the "all" in I Timothy 2:4 by examining the context. Rev. Stewart

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