709 East 57th Street; Loveland, CO 80538
Services: 9:30 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. (7:00 p.m. June
Pastor: Rev. Garry Eriks Phone: (970) 667-9481
Vol. 7, No. 12
Homepage on Internet: http://www.prca.org
The Coming of Christ
In our last article we showed that the whole NT age is the last time, according to Scripture. The last day or last time - the end - is not only something future but something present, something with which each of us must reckon, no matter when we live.
The coming of Christ must be similarly understood. As the great event of history through which all things are brought to their appointed end, the coming of Christ is not only something future, but also something present.
The point is, first, that the Christ's coming is described in Scripture as one event including His birth in Bethlehem, His return for judgment and all that happens in between. This is the reason why the prophets in the OT seem to mix events that to us are separated by thousands of years of history. They saw it all as one event, and they were not wrong.
Both from the viewpoint of God's purpose and from the viewpoint of eternity itself (II Pet. 3:8), Christ's coming is one event which finishes history, accomplishes God's sovereign purpose, and ushers in the eternal and heavenly kingdom of God. The OT prophets under the inspiration of the Spirit saw something of this.
This means, in the second place, that Christ is already coming! That is the way Scripture speaks. Though it also speaks of His coming as a future event, looking ahead to His personal and bodily return, it more often speaks in the present tense - that He is coming and that throughout all history. He is on the way, and His personal appearance at the very end is only the final stage of something that began in Bethlehem (Matt. 26:64 - note the word "hereafter," i.e., "from now on"; Matt. 28:20).
Scripture, therefore, not only speaks of Christ's birth as His "coming" (and remember, the OT prophets do not clearly distinguish it from other aspects of His coming), but also speak of various other events as part of the "coming" of Christ. These are especially three:
(1) He comes through the Spirit (Jn. 14:16-18). Because the outpouring of the Spirit is part of the coming of Christ, even the Apostle Peter in his Pentecost sermon does not make a clear distinction between that event and those things that we connect with the very end of the world, blood and fire, smoke and darkness (Acts 2:16-21).
(2) He also comes for believers at death. He comes! though not personally and bodily. He Himself assures us of this in John 14:2, 3. That, of course, is our comfort.
(3) He also comes through the preaching of the gospel. That Christ Himself speaks through the gospel is evident (Jn. 10:27; Eph. 2:17). Through it also, therefore, He comes and is present. This is the point in Matthew 28:19, 20. It is in preaching the gospel that Christ is present with us, even to the end.
All this means that coming of Christ is not just a future event which has no immediate bearing on us, but something present with which we must always reckon. Indeed, in one or another of these senses, Christ comes every day and will certainly come in our own lifetimes when He comes to take us to Himself! Rev. Ronald Hanko
The Sufficiency of the Gospel
The article which appeared in the last issue dealt with the question whether the teaching of Jesus in Luke 16:19-31 was a parable or a description of some event which had really taken place in Palestine.
I concluded that, for various reasons, this passage of Scripture must indeed be considered a parable. But I also took the opportunity to say a few things about the meaning of the parable, particularly that Jesus in fact included what may be considered two different parables in these verses. I reached this conclusion on the basis of the fact that the section can be divided into two parts, both of which teach a different truth.
The first part, vss. 19-27, teaches the dreadful consequences of the sin of covetousness. The second part, vss. 28-31, teaches the truth of the sufficiency of the gospel.
The discussion in the last issue pointed out that the rich man really was blaming God for his punishment in hell. He tried to shift the blame to God by saying, although indirectly, that God had not given him in "Moses and the prophets" a sufficiently good reason to believe the gospel. The rich man pleaded that a special miracle, a ghost, a return of Lazarus from the dead, would succeed in doing what the gospel had not been able to do, namely to bring the rich man's brothers to repentance.
Abraham emphatically refutes that position. He points out that Moses and the prophets, i.e., the Old Testament Scriptures, are enough. He states as a fact that if people will not believe Moses and the prophets, nothing in all heaven or earth will persuade them of the truth of the gospel.
That is a truth which needs emphasis today.
It may very well be that I had occasion to discuss this same truth in some earlier issues, but the matter is important enough to repeat, and I ask those who remember the former article to give me this opportunity to say something about this matter once again.
I am not primarily interested in the constant efforts made by some in the church to add to the gospel (as the Charismatics do) signs and wonders in the hope that more will be converted; I am not primarily interested in those who soften the gospel to an insipid Arminianism (God loves everyone; He wants to save everyone.) in order to make it more palatable. I am interested in the positive truth Jesus drives home in the last part of this parable: The gospel is God's means of salvation, and in that gospel we must trust.
We are often of the opinion that many do not believe the gospel because the proof is inadequate or the presentation of it ineffective. Many suggest this, for example, when they claim that evolutionists must be answered by proof from the creation itself. Or, scholars will be persuaded of their errors of higher criticism only when they are answered in a scholarly way -- whatever scholarly may mean. Or, if only the ark could be found on Ararat, people would believe in the story of Noah and the ark.
But these assertions are not so. The reason why men do not believe the gospel is not lack of sufficient proof, or evidence, or information. The reason for rejection of the gospel lies in man's wicked and depraved heart. He hates God and will have nothing to do with God. All the evidence in the world of the truth of the gospel will not alter his opinion, for no one is so blind as he who will not see -- and the will is bound by sin.
If the ark would be found and it could be proved to be Noah's ark, the situation in this unbelieving world would not be altered one whit. If the angel Gabriel should appear in all his glory to announce to men that evolutionism is a terrible lie, not one man would change his mind. If Christ Himself would appear again on earth to preach the gospel, the "Christian" countries of Europe and America would conspire together as Herod and Pilate did to put Him to death. If a voice from heaven would testify, "This is my beloved Son," the meteorologists would tell us that it thundered.
Only God can change the heart of man from one filled with hate to one filled with love for God. How does God do that? He does that in only one way: The gospel! The gospel is the power of God unto salvation to all who believe (Rom. 1:16).
Such a truth has vast implications in the life of the believer. Every believer is a true prophet. In that office he is able to stand up against the most learned of the wicked and defend the gospel regardless of the circumstances. He need only appeal to Scripture and point men to Scripture's testimony. Indeed, he does disservice to the cause of the gospel should he do anything else. The gospel saves, not learned arguments or empirical proof. And the gospel saves because God saves through the gospel.
We must trust in that gospel believing that through it God accomplishes His purpose. Prof. H. Hanko
What About Altar-calls?
Our question this time is interesting: "What is your view of calling people from their seats to the front of the church, as response to a preacher's call 1) to those who are not yet Christians to commit themselves to Christ, or 2) to those who are already Christians who want a confirmatory blessing through prayer or the laying on of hands? Does this practice have Biblical authority, benefits or dangers?"
Calling people to the front of a meeting is sometimes referred to as an "altar-call." As far as any Biblical authority for this practice is concerned, however, there is none. It is another example of how all sorts of practices creep into the worship of the church which are not Biblical, are based on bad theology, and are dishonoring to God. Romish worship is filled with such practices, but so is the worship of most evangelical churches today.
We believe that this practice is not only unbiblical and God-dishonoring, but dangerous. Indeed, we see no benefit in it at all.
What are the dangers? They are three, we believe:
(1) The practice historically arises out of the revivalism of men like Finney, Moody, and Sankey, and is inevitably associated in people's minds with their theology, i.e., that I make, by my own free will, the decision whether or not I will be saved. This teaching, that my salvation, and indeed the grace of God Himself, and the power and value of Christ's death depend on the choice I make, is wrong.
(2) In the case of unbelievers the practice is dangerous, because it suggests that all that is necessary for salvation is "coming to the front," or raising one's hand, or other such actions. This has resulted in thousands who claim salvation for themselves on the basis of such a response, but who show none of the fruits of God's grace in their confession and life.
This unbiblical practice and the unconverted "converts" it produces has even resulted in the invention of new kinds of Christians. Some talk of "carnal Christians" who has been "converted" but who remain carnal in conduct and walk. Others, in defense of these unconverted "converts," deny "Lordship salvation," and say that a person can have Jesus as His Savior, without having Him as Lord of His life (Christ's Lordship means that we belong to Him completely, also as far as our walk is concerned).
No new convert ought to be allowed to make any kind of public commitment, until that commitment has been to some degree tested and he himself been instructed in the truths of the Christian faith. This is especially important in light of the emotionalism and high-pressure tactics that characterize so many evangelistic meetings.
(3) As far as Christians are concerned, the practice is dangerous in that it becomes for many a way of drawing attention to themselves and detracts from the public and communal worship of the church.
The means of grace and blessing in the church are the preaching of the gospel, the sacraments, and public prayer, in which all God's people are called to participate. If we desire God's blessing we ought to seek it through the means He has provided and not by putting ourselves forward in a meeting or by calling people to do so.
Indeed, that individuals be singled out this way, or put themselves forward in this way, draws our attention in public worship and evangelism, from God Himself. He and He alone ought to be the center of attention when the people of God meet together. Rev. Ronald Hanko
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