September 2009 • Volume XII, Issue
One Body Animated by One Spirit (2)
We must not suppose that the unity of the invisible
or mystical body of the church (Eph. 4:4-6) has nothing to say to us as
members of visible, instituted churches. First, we must know, and think
of, the glorious unity of the whole company of those predestinated as
the one church, body and bride of Christ. Second, we must seek to
manifest that unity as members of true, instituted churches. Third, we
must serve the church’s unity on a wider scale by evangelising
unbelievers to bring them to saving faith (DV), by spreading the truth
of the biblical and Reformed faith, and by maintaining and/or
establishing fellowship with like-minded believers and churches, as far
The "one Spirit" (Eph. 4:4) is the Holy Ghost, the
Third Person of the Holy Trinity as sent by Jesus Christ. This "one
Spirit" follows immediately after, and is joined to, "one body" by the
conjunction "and," indicating their intimate connection, for the Spirit
is the life-principle which animates the body of the church, giving it
vitality and vigour. Without the Spirit (to speak as a fool) the body of
the church would be dead. The body only thinks and wills, moves and
acts, believes and obeys, and serves the Triune God out of gratitude
because of the inner, life-giving power of the Holy Ghost!
There is emphatically "one Spirit," not two or
more. The Holy Spirit comes to us through the Word by faith; He alone
glorifies Jesus Christ and enables us to worship the Triune God. We need
more of the Spirit in faithful, instituted churches! Not the spirit of
the world—a carnal, ungodly spirit. Not the spirit of fear, bringing us
into bondage. Not "another spirit," bringing "another Jesus" and
"another gospel" (II Cor. 11:4).
"There is one body, and one spirit, even as ye are
called in one hope of your calling" (Eph. 4:4). There must be and is
only one body and only one Spirit, because we have "one hope." To this
one hope, we are effectually called by the gospel. Only as animated by
one Spirit has the body one hope (1:17-18). So it is entirely fitting
and appropriate that there is one body and one Spirit "even as" we have
one hope to which we are called.
The reference to "one hope" here indicates that the
elect church is an eschatological body. It is this because it has one
"blessed hope"—Christ’s "glorious appearing" (Titus 2:13)—and its unity
is only perfectly seen by us in the world to come. This truth that the
church only has one hope has something to say about having different
eschatological views (or views of the end times) in a congregation or
denomination. We believe biblical and Reformed amillennialism: there is
one second coming of Christ, one general resurrection and one final
judgment. Christ’s return is preceded by the salvation of all the
elect church and the intensification of apostasy and persecution,
especially in the manifestation of the Man of Sin (cf. Dan.; Matt.
24-25; Mark 13; Luke 21; II Thess. 2; I Tim. 4; II Tim. 3; II Peter 3;
Rev.). But postmillennialism yearns for a coming golden age on earth in
which most people will be converted and the world will be Christianized.
Jewish premillennialism and dispensationalism look forward to an
earthly, literal, Jewish millennium which includes several second
comings of Christ, resurrections and judgments. How can a congregation
or denomination, especially given 2,000 years of doctrinal development
and the increasing nearness of the end, allow two or three or more
different views of the last times, when Ephesians 4:4 says that there is
This one body animated by one Spirit, so that it has
one hope, is under "one Lord" (Eph. 4:5). This one Lord is the Lord
Jesus Christ who is God and man in one divine Person, who died on the
cross for us and our salvation. He is the Lord of the church because He
bought and owns the church. He bought the church at Calvary with the
price of His own precious blood. The church is His alone as His
body—exclusively His. Christ is the Lord of the church as its absolute
sovereign who alone defends and preserves His church. He alone governs
and rules His church, so that it must submit to, and obey, only Him. As
Lord, He animates the body by the Spirit that He purchased for, and
gives to, the church. As Lord, He is the one hope of the church, for He
is coming back on the clouds of heaven to make all things new.
Christian church, you have one Lord! He is not Caesar
(the early church had to battle against this). He is not Henry VIII or
any other earthly monarch, contrary to all Erastianism. Contemporary
opinion is not lord of the church, nor are the office-bearers. Christ
alone is Lord, ruler and head of the church. His will, set forth in
Scripture, is law. This is the issue at stake, for instance, in the
clamour for women in church office or the acceptance of impenitent
homosexuals as members or office-bearers in the church.
The one church has "one faith" (Eph. 4:5). This is
increasingly attacked in our day. The church of the saved includes those
of many religions, according to leading Romish theologians. The
Archbishop of York, second only to the Archbishop of Canterbury, stated
recently that the Church of England ought to be the church for people of
many faiths (i.e., pagans). The General Assembly of the Presbyterian
Church of Ireland adopted a paper which stated that it would be hard to
deny that Jews and Muslims worship the true God. What else does this
mean but that these Christless religions are pleasing to God? This is
shocking apostasy (cf. John 14:6; Acts 4:12)! The "one faith" is the
doctrine taught in God’s Word, the Bible, which is summarised and
systematised faithfully in the Reformed creeds. Liberals attack the very
idea of an objective faith, a uniform body of truth taught in the
Scriptures. They claim that there are various, competing theologies
taught in the Bible and that Scripture must be reinterpreted in the
light of modern culture!
Attacking the "one faith" (through false teaching or doctrinal
indifference) is rejecting the "one Lord" (who gives, and is the centre
of, the faith), denying the "one hope," despising the "one Spirit" and
assaulting the "one body." Teaching, confessing and spreading the one,
true faith is obeying the "one Lord" and promoting the unity and the
hope of the body in the Spirit. We must "earnestly contend for the faith
which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3). This is our
calling—for church unity too! Rev. Stewart
Angry Without a Cause
"What about being angry without a cause (Matt. 5:22)?
Why should it lead to hell?" a reader asks. Matthew 5:22 reads, "But I
say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause
shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his
brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall
say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire."
We ought to be sure that we understand the context of
this important passage. Two points have to be made. The first is that
this word of our Lord is part of the so-called Sermon on the Mount. The
Sermon on the Mount has been rightly called, "The Constitution of the
Kingdom of Heaven."
Those who distort the gospel with their views of
social action to make this world a better place in which to live, and
teach that ultimately the kingdom of Christ is to be realized here on
earth, use these words of Christ to guide us in understanding what the
goal of our life ought to be as we do our part to establish this earthly
kingdom. Violence must be repeatedly done to the entire passage if such
exegesis is imposed on this sermon of our Lord. For example, Jesus’
injunction to enter at the narrow gate (7:13-14) can in no way be
applied to the calling to seek the kingdom of Christ here in the world.
And this is only one example.
Jesus is giving instruction in the fundamental
precepts of life in the kingdom of heaven. That kingdom is invisible,
not visible; it is heavenly, not earthly. It is established by God’s
power through the cross, not man’s might. It has its foundation in the
righteousness of God revealed at Calvary, not in the present earthly
structures of society, governed by man’s moral precepts. It comes not
with observation (Luke 17:20), but by the work of the Spirit in the
hearts of God’s people. It is realized fully only at the time of the
second coming of Christ when, in His fierce wrath, He shall smash all
the kingdoms of this world.
But the citizens of the kingdom are called to stay in
this world until Christ calls them home through death. While they are
here, citizens of an earthly kingdom, they are nevertheless to walk as
citizens of the kingdom of heaven in all the relationships of life. This
walk of the citizens of the kingdom of heaven is governed by the perfect
law of God as fulfilled in Christ’s atoning sacrifice.
That is a crucial element in the context, which we
cannot ignore. The admonitions and principles of Christ’s sermon are
meant for citizens of the kingdom only, not for all men.
The second element in the context arises out of the
fact that Jesus is setting forth the principles of law-keeping within
the kingdom—in distinction from the teaching of the Pharisees. They too
claimed they were citizens of the kingdom of God, but never wanted
anything to do with Christ, who had come to establish the kingdom. They
interpreted God’s law as being a set of external precepts, which they,
in turn, explained to their own advantage. This is the reason why Jesus
repeatedly says, "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time ...
but I say unto you ..."
In the verse we consider, Jesus is talking about the
sixth commandment, "Thou shalt not kill." The Pharisees had applied that
commandment exclusively to outer conduct. Murder is wrong! But Jesus
points out that there is more to the law than its outward injunction.
After all, it was revealed already in the Old Testament that the law was
a matter of the heart and, therefore, of inward perfection. Did not the
law demand that Israel love God? And that the people love their
neighbour as themselves? And so Jesus teaches that in the kingdom of
heaven, the inner perfection of the law is as important, if not more
important, than outward observance of the commandment.
Some interpreters have said that the sins described
in Matthew 5:22 have a rising scale of importance. To say to a brother
"Raca" is worse than to be angry with him, and to call a brother a fool
is worse than saying "Raca." In harmony with that, these same
commentators (including Calvin) say that the judgment described is worse
in each instance. It is worse to be brought before the council or
Sanhedrin than to be judged in a lower court, and it is obviously worse
to go to hell than to be judged by the Sanhedrin.
The difficulty with this explanation is that the
first two judgments are, apparently, references to earthly courts, while
hell is God’s judgment upon the sinner.
Therefore, I personally would prefer the
interpretation suggested by Lenski, that all three of the sins described
here are equally serious; and the references to the judgments described
are intended to remind one of the judgment of God that ends in hell.
Jesus is referring here to the commandment, "Thou
shalt not kill." And He is saying that for citizens of the kingdom that
commandment refers not only to the outward observance, but to the inner
attitude of the heart. All three sins of which Jesus speaks imply a lack
of love. To be angry with a fellow citizen of the kingdom without a
cause is to fail to love him. To call a fellow citizen "Raca," a word
that means something like "empty-head," is not loving our neighbour. To
say to him that he is a fool is a gesture of disdain, contempt and
hatred; it is surely not an expression of love.
We are to love our neighbour, and those who are our
neighbours are more numerous than the citizens of the kingdom of heaven.
Here the reference is to our fellow citizens in the kingdom of heaven.
If we cannot love them, there is no hope of our getting around to loving
our neighbour. The "easier" of the two is to love our neighbour who is a
brother; the hard part is to love our neighbour who persecutes us.
But in any case, the end of sinfully angry people is hell. Prof.
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