Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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September 2006 • Volume XI, Issue 5


Desertion (3) (Portuguese)

It is instructive to note that those who allow for the remarriage of the deserted believer and of the "innocent party" have found it difficult to "hold the line." Luther even permitted the bigamy of Philip of Hesse, creating a huge scandal throughout Christendom. An Italian Protestant deserted his Roman Catholic wife and children and moved to Geneva. He, a "believer," left her, an unbeliever, and yet Calvin allowed him to remarry while his wife was living. The Reformers did not have the last word on the doctrine of marriage.

Increasingly, in our "wicked and adulterous generation" (Matt. 16:4), churches are caving in on marriage, divorce and remarriage. Congregations are being led by divorced and remarried ministers, elders and deacons. Divorced and remarried people are coming to the Lord’s Supper, and sometimes they partake at the table in the same congregation or denomination. In many places, various grounds for divorce are accepted and not just the one ground, adultery. The permission to remarry for only the "innocent party," as well as being unbiblical (Rom. 7:2-3: I Cor. 7:39), is in many instances proving unstable. If the "innocent party" is free to remarry, it must be because the marriage itself is dissolved. And if the marriage is dissolved for the "innocent party," then it must also be dissolved for the "guilty party." Why then cannot the "guilty party" remarry? Many congregations and church synods have not been able to withstand this argument. But perhaps even more persuasive is the realization that teaching and practising the biblical doctrine of marriage, divorce and remarriage may well mean the loss of numbers and a deep, spiritual struggle.

As the cracks in the marriage doctrine held by many are growing larger and larger, it is time for individuals, families and churches to embrace that marriage doctrine espoused by Jesus Christ, the church’s bridegroom and head.

In the attack on the biblical doctrine of marriage, divorce and remarriage, the great truth of the unbreakable bond between Christ and His church is being attacked, for the former is to reflect the latter (Eph. 5:22-33). The bond between Christ and His elect bride is that of the everlasting covenant realized by the irresistible grace of Almighty God and wrought by the indwelling Spirit. Our wicked sins can not break this bond; nor can even death itself. For God is immortal, and our death is a passageway into glory, and Christ’s death is our redemption, sanctification and glorification (25-27). Rev. Stewart

The Messianic Psalms

O God, thou knowest my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from thee (Ps. 69:5).

A reader writes, "The whole of Psalm 69 is clearly the prophetic words of Christ (e.g., Ps. 69:21; cf. Matt. 27:34). But who is confessing sin and foolishness in verse 5? Could it be the imputed sin of His people being confessed?"

This question brings us to the heart of the messianic character of the Psalms. Usually conservative commentators on the Psalms distinguish between the Psalms in general and the messianic Psalms, the latter being those Psalms which speak directly of Christ. The messianic Psalms include Psalms 2, 22, 69, 72, 100, etc.

There is a sense in which all the Psalms are Messianic, for they were all inspired by the Holy Spirit of Christ. Christ Himself speaks in the Psalms, even though He may be speaking through David or Asaph or Ethan. That Christ Himself is speaking in the Psalms by His Spirit is clear from I Peter 1:10-12: "Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into."

Scripture teaches that the OT prophets, including the Psalmists, wrote what they did by the Spirit of Christ, and that they, the prophets, searched their own writings to learn about Christ’s sufferings and glory.

However, the Psalms are unique in one respect: they all testify and speak of Christ, as the whole of Christ’s work is performed for, in and through those for whom He died. It is hard to emphasize too strongly the importance of this. David wrote many of the Psalms. He was infallibly inspired by the Spirit of Christ. Christ by His Spirit was speaking in David and through David. But Christ by His Spirit was speaking in and through David in such a way that Christ’s work for David was reflected in David’s consciousness. And it was reflected in David’s consciousness in connection with David’s own pathway in life with all its experiences, trials, victories and sufferings, and as that pathway in life was determined by God in His eternal counsel.

In other words, the Psalms are David’s (and Asaph’s, and Ethan’s) spiritual biography, as Christ, the redeemer of His people, works His salvation through His people in their lives. Christ speaks in the Psalms of what He has done. David speaks in the Psalms as the mouthpiece of Christ. Every believer speaks in the Psalms as Christ works salvation within him.

Christ said, "The Lord is my shepherd" (Ps. 23:1). The Triune God was Christ’s shepherd in all Christ’s suffering. Christ is the good shepherd who calls His sheep by name (John 10). Christ leads His people into green pastures. The believer says, "The Lord is my shepherd." The believer in whom Christ dwells and through whom Christ speaks His own word, also speaks that Word as it applies to his own life. He speaks it in all of his life—even when he walks through the valley of the shadow of death.

The psalmist said, "My God, my God, why hast though forsaken me?" (Ps. 22:1). Christ said those words on the cross, for they were His words in the OT as He spoke them prophetically through David. But David said those words in a moment of chastisement when God had seemingly abandoned him. Nevertheless, it was Christ speaking through David and in David’s own experiences in life. And every believer, at one time or another in his life, cries out the same Psalm’s plaintive cry. This spiritual character of the Psalms is what makes them so rich.

Some Psalms speak directly of the suffering of Christ and do so prophetically and specifically—as does Psalm 69. Yet, it is Christ speaking through David so that David himself is speaking, but he is speaking the Word of Christ as Christ speaks in and through him. Enemies parted Christ’s garments among them (Ps. 22:18; John 19:34), but they did the same with David’s clothes—perhaps at the time of Absalom’s rebellion. And so with all the Psalms.

Psalm 69:5, quoted above, is also Christ speaking in and through David, for only by the Spirit of Christ is any believer able to confess his sins as David does here. But it is also Christ who speaks, for the sins of all His people were imputed to Christ and He who knew no sin was made sin for us (II Cor. 5:21). The questioner is correct. Christ cries out in Psalm 69 that the sins of His people, imputed to Him, were not hid from God. Christ cried this when He suffered the wrath of God against sin on the cross. But because Christ said this first, and now says it in us, we too are able to say it—and saying it, find forgiveness in Christ’s blood.

Thus the Psalms were written out of the personal experiences of the psalmists. They were, however, infallibly inspired by the Holy Spirit. Christ is, therefore speaking in the Psalms concerning Himself and His work which He does for and in His people. As He performs His work in His people, He does so through His Word in the sacred Scriptures. He, by the same Spirit who inspired the authors of Scripture, speaks His Word in the heart and consciousness of the believer in connection with the believer’s own experiences in the pathway of life through which God leads him. Thus Christ’s experiences become the believer’s experiences in his union with Christ by faith. And so he sings the Psalms with gusto.

Read the Psalms this way. Do so meditating on each one, meditating on the truth that Christ speaks in and through you in all the experiences of life through which God leads you. One thing is sure from such an exercise: you will never want to go to uninspired hymns in your worship of God. Prof. Hanko

Christ, the Image of the Invisible God (1)

That Jesus Christ is "the image of the invisible God" (Col. 1:15) tells us something, first of all, about God. Neither John in his visions in the book of Revelation, nor Moses on Mount Sinai, nor Adam in the Garden of Eden, saw God. God has never been seen and never will be seen, not on the judgment day nor in the eternal ages. For God is, by nature, spirit not matter. He is without colour, extension or shape, for He is eternally and necessarily invisible. In fact, God cannot be sensed with any of our senses. Not only can He not be seen but He cannot be heard or smelled or tasted or touched.

The invisibility of God leads us to the truth that He is hidden, far off, transcendent and incomprehensible to man. Thus God must reveal Himself to us for us to know Him. His invisibility necessitates His revelation if ever we can be His covenant friends.

Our text also tells us something about Christ and His relationship to God, that He is "the image of the invisible God." Certainly, the eternal Son is the image of God the Father. All that the Father is so is the Son and all that the Son is so is the Father, excluding, of course, their personal properties of begetting (the Father) and being begotten (the Son). These exceptions excluded, the Son perfectly images the Father.

Colossians 1:15, however, is focusing on the incarnate Christ as the image of God, for we are in the mediatorial "kingdom" (13) of the crucified Saviour "in whom we have redemption through his blood" (14). Thus our text speaks of Christ as the image who makes the "invisible God" visible (15).

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God as the Word made flesh who dwelt among us, "and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father" (John 1:14). The apostles declared, "We heard Him and saw Him and handled Him" (cf. I John 1:1-3). Thus Jesus said, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father" (John 14:9).

As the image of God, the incarnate Christ images God in his attributes (holiness, love, truth, etc.), works (creation, providence and redemption) and will. He is "the image of the invisible God," even "the express image of God" (Heb. 1:3). Christ is the absolutely perfect image of God in everything without exception. No divine features are missing in the image; nothing is misplaced; no glory is impaired or diminished. As the express image of God, Jesus Christ is God, for only One who is God can be the express image of God. Thus "all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father" (John 5:23). Rev. Stewart

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