Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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September 2009 • Volume XII, Issue 17


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 as possible.

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 "one hope"?

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. Hanko

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