Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church

5101 Beechtree
Hudsonville, Michigan 49426
Services: 9:30 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.

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Vol. 9, No. 14

  Holding the Traditions (2)
  Achan’s Sin and Punishment (3)
  Not Willing that Any Should Perish (1)

Holding the Traditions (2)

Last time, we considered the Roman view of "tradition" concluding with the question: Is this what II Thessalonians 2:15 ("Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle") has in mind?

The Greek word translated "traditions" carries the idea of handing something down or passing it on. The ones who handed these things down to the Thessalonians were the apostle Paul and his helpers, Timothy and Silas (1:1). They passed these things on by "word, or ... epistle." "Word" includes preaching (and other forms of oral teaching). Thus Paul writes, "Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told ye these things?" (2:5). "Our epistle" (singular) is I Thessalonians. Thus the tradition of II Thessalonians 2:15 is apostolic testimony handed down either by inspired Scripture (I Thessalonians) or preaching. Remember that the preaching of Paul (and his associates)—faithful explanation and application of God’s Word—was in full accordance with the Scriptures.

What is the content of the "traditions" of II Thessalonians 2:15? Obviously, the heart of it is the gospel of Jesus Christ crucified and risen for the salvation of His church to the glory of God. I and II Thessalonians speak especially of Christ’s return for judgment and salvation. II Thessalonians 2 elaborates on this. Preceding Christ’s return and the "gathering" of the saints unto Him (1) is the "falling away" and the revelation of the "man of sin" (3). The man of sin will set himself up "above all that is called God" (4) and will work miracles in the service of the lie (9). Christ "shall consume [him] with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy [him] with the brightness of his coming" (8). God will use the deception of the man of sin (9-10) in executing His decree of reprobation (11-12). However, those "chosen" "to salvation" "from the beginning" shall be effectually "called" to "belief of the truth," "sanctification of the Spirit" and "obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ" (13-14). Moreover, included in the "traditions" are the "eschatological ethics" which flow from the biblical doctrine of the last times. These are found especially in I Thessalonians 5:6-28 but also throughout I and II Thessalonians.

Thus the "traditions" which we must hold fast are biblical doctrines contained in God-breathed Scripture and church teaching that is consonant with the written Word of God. This teaching does not add to or contradict the Scriptures. It merely explains and applies the Word of God.

What then of the church of Rome and her tradition? And what is the calling of the believer regarding tradition? We shall consider this next time (DV). Rev. Stewart

Achan’s Sin and Punishment (3)

And it shall be, that he that is taken with the accursed thing shall be burnt with fire, he and all that he hath: because he hath transgressed the covenant of the Lord, and because he hath wrought folly in Israel (Josh. 7:15).

A reader asks, "Would you please explain to me what was the accursed thing mentioned in Joshua 7:15, and why was the punishment so severe?"

In the last two articles in the News, I set forth the history of the sin of Achan, and I explained why the punishment was so severe. I pointed out that the whole nation of Israel suffered for Achan’s sin because of the biblical principle of corporate responsibility. Nevertheless, the primary responsibility rested with Achan who stole some of the accursed things from Jericho. Achan was responsible for the death of 36 soldiers.

Now I’ll answer the question, "What was the accursed thing?"

First, the accursed thing was the Babylonian garment, the 200 shekels of silver and the 50 shekel wedge of gold (7:21). It was accursed because it came from Jericho.

Everything in Jericho was accursed (6:17), because the inhabitants of Jericho were under the curse of God. They were wicked idolaters, corrupt in morals—as the public harlotry of Rahab showed—and so wicked that they had filled the cup of iniquity and had become ripe for judgment.

Moreover, many of the possessions of the citizens of Jericho were used directly in their idolatry. Their other possessions were also used in sin in various ways. Because of Adam’s sin, the curse came on all the creation. When the wicked continue to use the things of this world to sin, these things are accursed, and the wicked along with them.

Simply to take of that which was accursed was to participate in the sins of Jericho. This can easily be seen in the sin of Achan. Achan himself admitted that he coveted these things (7:21). That is, he wanted that which God had not given him. He violated the tenth commandment. He committed this sin because he wanted Jericho’s riches for himself to use for his own personal pleasure and not in the service of God. He committed the same sin as the citizens of Jericho, which city God destroyed.

You may say that Achan did not intend to use the things he stole for purposes of idolatry or immorality. That may be true, although we do not know with certainty. There was plenty of idolatry and immorality in Israel, as is evident from the worship of the golden calf at Sinai. But even if he did not want to use these things for such outward expressions of the lusts of his heart, he wanted them for his own personal pleasure, just as Jericho’s citizens did. As such, it was a transgression of God’s covenant, that if Israel would walk in the ways of the Lord, God would be their God and they would be His people (11). But if Israel sought the things of Canaan for the purpose of becoming like the Canaanites, God would destroy them, as ultimately He did.

The sin of Jericho, basically repeated in the heart of Achan, was terrible. It was the sin of using God’s good gifts for one’s self and the service of idols rather than for the glory of God who had made them all. If, therefore, Jericho was destroyed because of its sin, Achan must be destroyed for the same sin, especially because Achan knew far more about the will of God than the citizens of Jericho. Achan had heard God’s law thunder from Sinai; Jericho had not.

We must consider another point. Previously, I called attention to the fact that the word used in the Hebrew text can mean either "accursed" or "devoted." Why did the Holy Spirit, who inspired the Scriptures, chose this word with these two meanings?

It is striking that not all that was in Jericho had to be burned with fire. We are told that God commanded Joshua that "all the silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron, are consecrated unto the Lord: they shall come into the treasury of the Lord" (6:19). To be consecrated to the Lord is the same as being devoted to the Lord. So the stuff of Jericho was both accursed and devoted: accursed when it was used in the service of sin, and devoted when it was put into the Lord’s treasury and used for His service.

When Jericho (and Achan) used these things for sin, Jericho (and Achan) were accursed. And, as long as the accursed thing was in the camp of Israel, Israel was accursed. They lost 36 fighting men! But when the things of Jericho were put into the Lord’s treasury, they were devoted to the Lord. Those who used them in the service of God were also devoted to the Lord, and God’s blessing was on them.

The Lord’s treasury was a unique expression of consecration to the Lord, because it was in the tabernacle, and, later, in the temple. These earthly things, themselves under the curse, are now devoted to God and are, therefore, pure and blessed.

Thus the punishment which Achan received for his dreadful sin (7:23-26) was just and right. God is so holy that all must be devoted to Him, and that which is not devoted to Him is accursed.

The valley where Achan was stoned was called the Valley of Achor (7:26). The name Achor is a play on Achan’s name, and the word means "troubling," because Achan had troubled Israel. Two prophets point to God’s gracious work in connection with that valley. Isaiah 65:10 reads: "And Sharon shall be a fold of flocks, and the valley of Achor a place for the herds to lie down in, for my people that have sought me." Hosea 2:15 prophesies, "And I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope: and she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt."

Next time (DV), we’ll consider some practical implications of this history of Achan.  Prof. Herman Hanko

Not Willing That Any Should Perish (1)

A reader notes that II Peter 3:9 is often used by Arminians against God’s eternal reprobation. He asks for the true interpretation of the verse.

Many half-quote and misapply II Peter 3:9, in preaching, in discussion and even in prayer. They tell God that He is "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (thinking that this means that He desires to save everybody) before asking for the salvation of their loved ones.

Pray for the conversion of your unbelieving friends and family (according to God’s will)! But do not build your petitions on a false view of God! If God really desires to save all head for head, then why are they not saved? Is His hand too short or His arm too weak? Is His will thwarted? Do His purposes depend on the will of puny man, so that though God wishes to save everybody, most won’t let Him? The true God "is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased" (Ps. 115:3). Any god who does not do what he pleases is not in the heavens. He is only in man’s head.

Yet does the verse not say that God is "not willing that any should perish?" But what does "any" mean here? And what is the context in II Peter 3?

We’ll consider the latter question first. Scoffers are denying Christ’s second coming (3). "Everything continues much as it has done," they say (4). (The modern "scientific" equivalent of this is "uniformitarianism.") Peter explains, that these people are willingly ignorant of the universal flood which destroyed the world in Noah’s day (5-6). All things have not continued as they were from the creation!

Contrary to the scoffers, Peter affirms that "the day of the Lord will come" (10). It will be "a day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men" (7). Man judges time from his own creaturely perspective, but things are viewed differently by the eternal God who created time: "one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (8). Today, people doubt if Christ is really coming back because almost 2,000 years have passed, but with God it is only as two days, so to speak! God "is not slack concerning his promise" of the return of Christ, though foolish men may wrongly reckon that He is (9). Peter concludes his argument by explaining why Christ has not yet returned: the Lord "is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (9).

If "all," here, means all head for head, then Christ has not yet returned because He wants to save everybody. However, some have already perished in their sins, and not all who are living or who are yet to be born will be saved. Thus Christ will never return. Therefore, there will be no final judgment (7), no purging of this fallen creation (7, 10-12) and no new heavens and new earth (13). Thus we lose a vital incentive for godliness (11-14). God’s promise (4, 9) is a lie and the church’s hope (12-14) a delusion, for Christ is not coming back. The Arminian (and free offer) view of II Peter 3:9 destroys eschatology, the faithfulness of God, and the salvation of the church!  Rev. Angus Stewart