Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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September 2011 • Volume XIII, Issue 17


Glorious Things Spoken of the Church (4)

As we saw in the last News, Psalm 87 states three times that regeneration or the new birth takes place in Zion, the city of God, the church (4, 5, 6). This implies at least two callings. First, invite unbelievers to come to hear God’s Word preached, for this is where He regenerates and saves sinners! Second, Christian parents must not only teach their young children in the home, but also bring them to the assembly of the saints and the catechism classes. Regeneration is, indeed, a sovereign work of God, for the Spirit, like the wind, blows on whom He wills (John 3:8), but the Holy Scriptures also declare that this spiritual birth is in the church.

Regeneration is not only in the church; it is also a benefit for the elect in the nations. Psalm 87:4 mentions five Gentile peoples: Rahab or Egypt (Isa. 51:9-10) and Ethiopia are south of Israel, Babylon is east, Philistia is west and Tyre is north. God regenerates His elect people from all nations—north, south, east and west—in the church.

Of the five places spoken of in Psalm 87:4, Philistia is nearest to Israel, then Tyre, Egypt (Rahab) and Babylon, with Ethiopia farthest away. In the New Testament age, God has granted the spiritual birth to His chosen people in the four corners of the earth.

We should also consider the history of these five nations or peoples. Rahab or Egypt was the place of Israel’s bondage. The Jews also experienced captivity in Babylon. The Philistines were a long-standing enemy of Israel, especially in the books of Judges, I & II Samuel, and I Kings. Tyre and Ethiopia were not as closely involved with God’s Old Testament people. Now, in the New Testament age, the elect from these ungodly nations and many others are brought into Christ’s church by regeneration.

One could also consider their national characteristics. Rahab/Egypt was fierce and proud. Babylon bespeaks the world and its allurements. The Philistines were a bitter enemy, a thorn in Israel’s flesh. Tyre was rich, filled with traders. Ethiopia, farthest from Israel, was totally ignorant of God. For the last 2,000 years, all types of men and women, with characteristics such as these, have received the blessing of the new birth: the proud, the worldly, the wealthy, the ignorant, enemies of the church, businessmen, etc.

People from the five places of Psalm 87:4 were present on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 when Christ poured out His Holy Spirit thus forming the New Testament church. The eunuch in Acts 8 was from Ethiopia. Paul spent seven days with the disciples in Tyre (Acts 21:3-7) for God by regeneration had created a church there.

Thus evangelism takes place by, and only by, the church, and the regeneration of the elect takes place in connection with, and only in connection with, the church, for the nations are born in Zion.

God declares that regeneration in the church is an aspect of the church’s glory. He says this about no other institution in the world and certainly not about the false church. Indeed, regeneration in the church is the most prominent aspect of the church’s glory in Psalm 87 for it is the most frequently mentioned (4, 5, 6). The Psalmist resolves to speak of it: "I will make mention of" the spiritual birth of the Gentiles in the church (4). Other people talk of it: "And of Zion it shall be said, This and that man was born in her" (5). Indeed, it is through regeneration—and no other way—that God "establishes" His catholic or universal church in the world as the visible body of Jesus Christ (5).

Jehovah even registers His regenerate saints: "The Lord shall count, when he writeth up the people, that this man was born there" (6). The Lamb’s book of life (Rev. 13:8; 17:8) is a biblical reference to God’s eternal election of us in Christ, and the enrolling or registering of our regeneration is in time, but the same people (eventually) are mentioned in both books. All God’s people were written in the Lamb’s book of life simultaneously in eternity but all of the elect are regenerated at different times and therefore are written in the registry or roll book of those born in Zion at different times (Ps. 87:6).

We do not always know who are regenerate. Some whom we may think are regenerated are not. Some whom we think are not regenerated actually are. We view and treat others as Christians if they make a credible profession of faith. Do they believe the biblical gospel? Do they live according to the Word of God? On this basis, people are enrolled into particular instituted churches. Some in the membership lists of true churches are not really born again; they are hypocrites. But God infallibly knows and keeps a careful record of those whom He has regenerated (6).

The Psalmist concludes his song about Zion: "All my springs are in thee" (7). These are the springs of the spiritual water of life, bringing refreshment and joy to the believer. The Lord Jesus is the fountain or spring of "living water" (John 4:10, 14) in the church. By the means of grace, the crucified and risen Christ communicates to us Himself and all His blessings. We are refreshed by His Word and sacraments, as we believe His promises and enjoy the communion of the saints.

Notice that the believer declares "all my springs" are in the church (Ps. 87:7). This is what we read in God’s Word; this is what we sing in this inspired Psalm; this is what each of us must confess: "All my springs are in thee" (7)! This is why we are members in, and do not leave, a true church, unless to join a more faithful church.

Do you see the argument in Psalm 87? The glory of the church (3) includes her "foundation" (1), her election in Christ. According to verse 2, God’s love makes the church glorious. The church is also glorious because it is the place of the new birth (4-6) and the source, foundation and spring of all our spiritual life (7). No wonder that the musicians and the singers sang this inspired Psalm about it (7)! Rev. Stewart

The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit Upon All Flesh (2)

Question: "Could I have an interpretation of Acts 2:17-18?" The text reads, "And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: and on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy."

I was discussing in the last News the meaning of Pentecost with its signs of a mighty wind, tongues of fire and speaking in other languages. I must say that the Pentecostals, who pervert the whole meaning of Pentecost by their notion of tongue speaking, conveniently ignore the signs of the mighty wind and the tongues of fire. They do this so that the sign of tongue speaking can be said to continue among those who possess the second blessing, because they speak gobbledygook that no one understands. But it is a more difficult task to reproduce in any convincing way the sound of a mighty wind and the tongues of fire. These latter two signs were as important as, if not more important than, the sign of tongue speaking, for they emphatically pointed to the work of the Holy Spirit of Christ as a powerful work that purifies and burns all that is corrupt, and does so in a mysterious, irresistible way that cannot been seen, for it is God’s work of sanctification in the hearts of his people.

Pentecost marked the end of the old dispensation and the beginning of the new. The old dispensation was the time in which God showed to His church what He would do "in the last days"—to quote Peter (Acts 2:17). But God showed what He would do by means of the types and shadows of the law.

I cannot go into this question in detail, for the types and shadows of the law permeated Israel’s entire ecclesiastical, social and political life. But all of them, in some way, pointed ahead to what God would do through Christ. Every type and shadow, every miracle, every speech of God through the prophets or through angels referred to Christ and what God would do when Christ finally came.

Those speeches of God through types and shadows, visions and dreams, direct prophecies, etc., included this mighty work prophesied by Joel, that the exalted and glorified Christ, given the position of highest honour because of His work of suffering, death and resurrection, would also pour out His Spirit on the church to make the church to possess the blessings Christ earned for her.

In the place of the mere trinkets of Pentecostalism, we have the grand panorama that stretches over the ages and extends into all eternity of the great and glorious work of God: what Peter calls, in his Pentecost sermon, "the wonderful works of God" (11).

Part of the types and shadows of the old dispensation were the prophets, priests and kings that God ordained for the nation. This work of God in the old dispensation began in Paradise when Jehovah created man as prophet, priest and king to serve Him in His creation. As prophets, God enabled Adam and Eve to speak the word of God revealed to them in the creation—as Adam began to do when he named the animals. As priests, they were to consecrate their lives and all their activity to the Lord’s service—which they did when they began the work of subduing the earth. As king (and queen), they ruled over the creation in God’s name and as His representatives when they tilled the ground and took care of the garden.

But the fall disrupted all that. They lost the image of God and so lost their God-given office. In fact, it was worse than that, for they kept the office, but became the prophets, priests and kings of Satan.

Christ is the true Prophet, Priest and King in God’s house. In the old dispensation, although God gave types of Christ, no one man could be what Christ alone could be: prophet, priest and king. And so some men were priests and some kings. The two offices might not be held by the same person. Uzziah tried it and was struck down with leprosy (II Chron. 26:16-21). Saul tried it and lost the kingdom (I Sam. 13:9-14).

The office of prophet was unique. It was a special office in its own right, but Israel’s priests and kings were also prophets. David and Solomon wrote parts of Scripture in that office; even wicked Caiaphas, the high priest, prophesied (John 11:51). Office-bearers in the old dispensation held these offices and were able to function in them for they possessed the Holy Spirit who was given to them with the anointing with oil.

Thus Peter, quoting Joel, refers only to prophets, for the other offices are included in the office of prophet in the new dispensation. Joel uses Old Testament language, because he prophesied in the old dispensation. He speaks of dreams and visions, for they were the ways in which God revealed Himself in this time of types and shadows.

But with the coming of the Spirit upon all the members of the church, because of the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ, all God’s people become prophets, priests and kings. It has been known since the Reformation as the office of believer. Whereas Rome had taken this office away from the people of God and limited it only to the clergy, God restored this precious office to His people through Martin Luther

This is the wonder that took place on Pentecost with the outpouring of the Spirit. Now God’s people need no prophet, for they all know the Lord, from the least of them to the greatest (Heb. 8:6-13; I John 2:26-27). Because we are prophets, we are also priests, who by the power of the Spirit consecrate our lives unto God. As kings, we are able by the Spirit to walk in Christian liberty, determining for our own lives what is pleasing and good in God’s sight according to His Word.

This happened at Pentecost, for the Spirit of the risen Christ was given to the church so that Christ, in all the fullness of His blessedness, may dwell in us by His Spirit.

The sign of the speaking in tongues is, therefore, in perfect harmony with these other signs. In the old dispensation, salvation was limited to the Jewish nation, but in the new dispensation, the Spirit is poured out on all flesh, and God gathers His elect from all the nations of the earth and makes prophets, priests and kings from people out of every tribe and tongue. God’s Word is spoken in every land and language. People of every culture serve the Lord. Saints from every race rule over their lives so that they live in harmony with the law of God, which is written in their hearts.

This diverse and wonderfully catholic church in its totality shows forth the praise and the glory of God and the riches of His sovereign grace. Prof. Hanko

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