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The Righteous Man (A Meditation on Psalm 1)

This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma.

The Righteous Man

Meditation on  Psalm 1

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.  But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

Today, via the internet, there is a vast variety of different choices from which to read or follow. But the psalmist puts before us only two different ways of thinking and living. These two ways are antithetical. The Psalmist sets forth the way of the righteous man and the way of the ungodly. The blessed man walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, does not stand in the way of sinners, and finally does not sit in the seat of the scornful. There is a progression of sin. He walks with them, then he stands with them, and finally he is in a close relationship sits down with them.

Imagine that you are walking along a road with someone who strikes up a conversation with you. You listen carefully, and you stand there with him to digest and consider what he has said. Finally, you sit down with him to have a meal and become friends. This is the way of the wicked.

The righteous man steers clear of evil. Instead, his delight is in the law of God. He delights in that law. He meditates on that law. He constantly puts it before his mind and prays over it. He is instructed and guided by that law so that he can walk in it.

As a result, fruit is produced in his life. That man is like a tree, well planted. What a comparison! As a tree is nourished by the sun and nutrients of the soil, and watered by the stream, it naturally produces fruit. When the righteous man is nourished by God’s instruction, there will be fruit. But the growth and production of fruit is progressive. Not immediately is there fruit on the tree. Likewise, the work of sanctification is also gradual. After prayerful meditation of God’s instruction, there is eventually fruit.

Over against this growth and production of fruit, the wicked hate instruction. Therefore, the ungodly will not stand and abide, but like the chaff of wheat, they are blown away as worthless. The wicked will not stand in the judgment nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. The LORD knoweth the way of the righteous. He says, “They are mine!” He has destined them for heaven and eternal life. The wicked are also destined, for hell.  Their way will perish!

So who is this righteous man? It is so easy to think that it is you and I. Notice, it is singular. Some like to translate this verse as saying, “Blessed are those people”. They want to use more inclusive language. The Hebrew word is not a generic word that refers to all human beings. There is one particular man in view. Who is he? It is the Lord Jesus! You see, this Psalm is Messianic. Jesus Christ did not walk in counsel with the wicked, stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scorners. Rather, Jesus said of Himself, “My food is to do the will of him that sent me and to finish his work.”

You and I need to look by faith to Jesus as the one righteous man to save us. He will not only save us, but will fill us with His Holy Spirit and enable us to be like Him. Only in Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, can you and I approach the instruction of God and delight in it. Only in Christ can we be fruitful like the tree planted by streams of living water.  Jesus taught in John 15, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.”

Nothing happens overnight. Patiently wait for God to conform you to Christ’s likeness. Delight in God’s Word, meditate upon it. Flee wickedness and find your refuge in Christ, the righteous man.  He forgives us our sins. He produces in us new life. A good tree bears not bad fruit, but good fruit. Christ Jesus is the blessed and righteous man. He by His life, death, resurrection, and ascension makes us righteous and fruit-bearing people. Do you delight in God’s instruction? Do you meditate upon His word day and night?

Take this Psalm and by grace, may it describe you too.

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Philippines Mission Newsletter - August 2020

3 missionaries Oct 2017

PRCA FOREIGN MISSIONS IN THE PHILIPPINES

August 2020 Newsletter

Rev. D. Holstege (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) – Rev. D. Kleyn (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) – Rev. R. Smit (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
PO Box 1173 ACPO, Antipolo City, Rizal 1870, Philippines

Dear Congregations of the PRCA,

Greetings again from the Philippines. It has been quite a while since we’ve sent out a newsletter. The reason for this is twofold. We waited, first of all, because you were able in recent months to read and digest a good amount of information about the mission field and work here in the Philippines through the special May 2020 issue of the Beacon Lights. But in the second place, we waited so that we could give you updated information concerning the upcoming year of seminary instruction, especially as that (along with everything else) continues to be affected by the coronavirus quarantines here.

COVID-19 has, of course, affected us all. Our day to day lives have changed. Perhaps permanently. For us those changes began with quarantines that were put in place on March 14. And although the quarantine levels have changed from time to time, basically we have had to stay at home. We are allowed to travel outside the home for essentials, but otherwise we are for the most part homebound. The latter is especially true for the children, for the rule is that any who are 21 or under, along with any who are 60 or above (thankfully none of us has reached that ripe old age yet) are on 24 hour curfew.

These restrictions certainly provide challenges for the Holstege and Smit families, as well as for all the families in the churches who have children or elderly in them. One of those challenges was that the previous school year had to be completed from home. That kept the families extra busy, especially the missionary wives. Thankfully they (both children and parents) were able to complete the school year well.

As regards schooling, there will again be no face-to-face classes for the first half (at least) of the upcoming school year. So once again the parents will be busy supervising the education of their children. One significant help is that Irene Smit (who was unable to return to the USA this past June) will be assisting Leah Holstege with this. The Holsteges have three young children in school, and supervising their studies takes quite a bit more work than for older students. The plan is for Irene to supervise the twins (Kirsten and Kiley). She hopes to do so by setting up a “classroom” in the guest house at the Kleyn’s residence. Irene is eager to do this and we’re all thankful that the Lord enables us to help each other in these ways.

The most significant effect of the quarantines, however, has been Sunday worship. To date we have had 5 months of Sundays at home. Initially no public gatherings were allowed at all, and so we preached and/or worshiped at home. Then for a while, with a change in our quarantine level (from Enhanced Community Quarantine to General Community Quarantine), the government allowed up to a maximum of 10 persons for religious gatherings. This enabled some of the churches to hold services with a handful of their members, and thus there were a few times that a few of us could preach in a church building. But just today (August 4) the government transitioned us back to a higher level of quarantine (Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine) and thus the limit is now a maximum of 5 people for religious gatherings. Some of the churches may still meet, but for the most part we will be required to continue staying at home on Sundays for a while to come.

All three of us missionaries have regularly preached to a webcam in our studies, or else to our families in our living rooms while being recorded live for one of the churches. I know that many of our colleagues in the PRCA have done the same. That’s far from normal and from how it ought to be. It can be awkward and difficult. The preacher loses and certainly misses the face-to-face contact with the people of God. And we all miss terribly the blessing of corporate worship and of the communion of the saints. But as regards the preaching, we know that God can even use the above-mentioned means for the edification and blessing of His sheep. And we know, too, that He has.

The quarantines have affected various other things, too. The annual delegation visit, which is made up of representatives from Doon PRC and the Foreign Mission Committee and which was planned for this past March, needed to be canceled. The Holsteges planned furlough during the months of June and July needed to be canceled and rescheduled (they have received approval to come instead for a six-month furlough from the middle of December onwards, DV). The regular PRCP Classis meeting on June 12 was limited to a maximum of 10 people, thus many of the delegates (along with the three missionaries) needed to join the meeting via Zoom. The monthly delegation visits that were being made by the PRC in Bulacan to the Protestant Reformed Fellowship in Albuera, Leyte have stopped for now. And our monthly visits to the churches in Negros Occidental, which visits recently began to include weekend stays in order to preach and teach in three of the churches there, have come to a sudden standstill, which could easily continue for the remainder of 2020.

But what about the seminary? The Lord willing, we will begin classes again on August 11. What’s exciting about this is that the Lord has given the PRCP two more students for the ministry – a wonderful answer to prayers. As a result, we will have two students in first year (Ace Flores and Emman Jasojaso – both members of Provident PRC), and one student in second year (Jeremiah Pascual – a member of the PRC in Bulacan). Because the government has placed us on a higher level of quarantine again, we will need to teach the classes online (Skype, YouTube, Zoom). One change we recently needed to make to our schedule was to delay the start of Hebrew Grammar, due to the difficulty of teaching this subject online. The plan is to delay this for just one semester, and to teach Reformed Symbols (Creeds) instead. The three of us are therefore scheduled to teach the following:

  • Rev. Holstege: Hermeneutics and OT History
  • Rev. Kleyn: Reformed Symbols, Homiletics, and Church History (Reformation period)
  • Rev. Smit: Dogmatics (Christology), Greek Reading, and NT Exegesis.

From a human perspective these (and many other things as well) can appear to be detrimental to the cause of Christ’s kingdom and gospel. But we know that is not so, for all things are directed by Him for the sake of His church (2 Cor. 4:15). We, along with the saints here, are comforted by the knowledge that God is sovereign, Jesus Christ is King, and all things are eternally planned and directed for our good.

One other piece of news is that our wives have started a reading club. One of the motivations was the fact that our families do not have the freedom to get together as much as before. So Leah, Tricia and Sharon have been reading through some RFPA books together (5 to 10 pages per day). This gives them opportunity to stay in touch regularly through messages as they chat together about their readings (and, of course, about sundry other things, too). Some of the ladies in the churches have also joined in reading through some of the books.

As indicated above, our families have not been able to get together as much as before. However, whenever the quarantine level allowed for up to 10 people to gather, at least two of our families at a time could have fellowship and/or join each other for Sunday worship from time to time. While we do miss the freedom of visiting, doing things together in the neighborhood, going to Faith Academy for swimming and playground activities, and just being able to be out and about more, we make the most of staying in touch and of seeing each other as much as possible. We thank the Lord for whatever He makes possible.

In light of the ongoing restrictions, and especially because of how significantly they affect our Sundays, we have learned, by the grace of God, to long more earnestly and pray more sincerely for what David often did in his life when he too was in similar circumstances and unable to be in the Lord’s house on the Sabbath. The following prayers often come to mind: “One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple” (Psalm 27:4). “How amiable are thy tabernacles, O LORD of hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the LORD: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God” (Psalm 84:1-2). And also Psalm 42:1-2. To these we add the prayer that every saint, by God’s grace, prays now (I trust) with added meaning and fervency: “Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly!”

We send you our Christian love and also our appreciation for your continued prayers and support for us and our families and for all the saints here. That means more to us than we can express. Be assured, too, that we keep you all in our thoughts and prayers. May God be gracious to our churches, both there and here. And may our Savior return soon to take us to Himself in eternal glory.

In Christian love,

Rev. Daniel Kleyn

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Praying for Laborers for the Harvest

This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma.

Praying for Laborers for the Harvest

Meditation on Luke 10:2

Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.

As you drive through the countryside, have you taken notice of the fields on the farms? In springtime, we saw the planting, during the summer the growth of the crops, and now the harvesting. How abundant are the crops! The warm sunshine and the timely rains have been given by God, so that the corn, wheat, alfalfa, and soybeans are luxurious! The wheat has been harvested, the hay is getting baled up, and soon the corn and soybeans also will also be harvested. One thinks of the harvest song in Psalm 65.

But in Psalm 65, the spiritual blessings of God are mentioned first. They are more blessed and worthy of God’s praise. We are chosen by God in eternity, redeemed by Jesus Christ’s blood, and indwelt by his Spirit so that we approach and dwell in his courts. And we are indeed satisfied!

Because God has chosen for Himself a people in Jesus Christ, that people must be gathered from the nations. God does that through the preaching of the Word. Ministers bring the Word of God to their congregations each Sabbath day. Missionaries are sent out by the churches as were the apostle Paul and Barnabas, and later, Paul and Silas, and Barnabas and John Mark. As Jesus had prayed in John 17: 18, “As thou hast has sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.”

Do you have eyes to see and a heart that believes what Jesus says in Luke 10: 2? It is a harvest that is truly great. In Matt. 9:37, we read, “The harvest truly is plenteous.” John 4:35ff makes it more urgent. “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? Behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth. I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men labored, and ye are entered into their labours.”

“The fields are white unto harvest.” This means that it is time! The time is until the Lord Jesus returns. He comes quickly! Let us labor. Let us pray the Lord Jesus, the Lord of the harvest, for men to become preachers and missionaries. Let us also pray that as men, women, and children who love the Lord, we gladly witness for him and his kingdom! Oh, like the fields of corn and wheat, some years are much more plenteous and abundant than other. So also, in the history of missions, there are times when the fruit is more bountiful in one place over another. But the outcome of our sowing and reaping is not what we fix out eyes on. The Lord will give the increase in His own time and way. Ours is to labor for the Master.

Why do missions? Let me give five reasons:

1. Because God our Father is a glorious God whose fame must be spread abroad.

2. Because Jesus Christ has sent his church into the world, and we must be obedient.

3. Because we love our neighbors, and desire that they too may know and believe in Christ.

4. In love for the church, we desire to see those outside the church brought in. The church is greatly enriched by the zeal and joy of new believers. Otherwise the church will languish as it turns inward.

5. Jesus Christ has promised to come quickly. But He will not come until every elect saint has been born and has been saved. So let us labor! The field is great and abundant, white unto harvest.

Far and near the fields are teeming with the waves of ripened grain; Far and near their gold is gleaming o’er the sunny slope and plain. Lord of harvest, send forth reapers! Hear us Lord, to Thee we cry. Send them now the sheaves to gather, ere the harvest time pass by.”

Send them forth with morn’s first beaming, send them in the noontides glare; when the sun’s last rays are gleaming, bid them gather everywhere. Lord of harvest, send forth reapers! Hear us, Lord, to Thee we cry; Send them now the sheaves to gather, ere the harvest time pass by.”  ~ B. O. Clemm, 19th century

Let us labor for the Master from the dawn to setting sun, Let us talk of all his wondrous love and care; Then when all of life is over and our work on earth is done and the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.”  ~ James Black

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A Single Eye

This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma.

A Single Eye

Meditation on Matthew 6:22

The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.

What is your aim in life? On what have you set your eyes? Are you focused?

David’s son Absalom had his eye on his father’s kingdom. With that focus he plotted, planned, and curried the people’s favor. But later, in Jerusalem, he listened to the counsel of Ahithophel and then the advice of Hushai. Ahithophel suggested that Absalom send some men after his father David and strike him while he was tired and on the run. Hushai told Absalom to wait until a large army was gathered that Absalom himself could lead against his father. Absalom chose the advice of Hushai.

Certainly Absalom’s eye was on success! He wanted the kingdom of his father. But his eye was also focused on being seen as the leader of a mighty force, perhaps as great a leader as his father had been in his younger years. Pride was before his eyes. What pleases our sinful nature the most is often what seems best to us. Because Absalom was vain, he chose Hushai’s advice to his own destruction. In a worldly sense, Absalom did not have a single eye. Rather he had an evil eye. “But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!

Spiritually, you and I must have a single eye. “The eye,” says John Calvin, “is the torch or lamp of the body. If the hands and feet and mind are improperly directed, blame the eye.” The Greek word for ‘single’ means simple, uncomplicated, without speck, sound, and not double. This same word is at times applied to the heart (see Eph. 6:5; Col. 3:22). A single heart is sincere, has integrity and uprightness, and unmixed with ulterior or selfish motives.

What is to be our single eye? What is our life to be focused on? For those who are God’s children, washed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ, and indwelt with His Spirit, there can only be one focus: to promote the glory of God! We have in life one aim, one focus, one goal, and one eye.

But in the service of God, you are and will be grievously tempted to be distracted by the private feelings and interests of our old sinful nature. When these desires assert themselves, you will be tempted to lose the clear, simple, and single line of duty to do God’s will. You wish to do God’s will, but at the same time you are unwilling to sacrifice the sinful desires of the flesh. Other desires cloud your sight like cataracts. You do not have a clear sight of the right path.

Oh, the struggle that we have with the old sinful nature! We are called to crucify the old man. You are called to choose the cross. No one can combine two opposite goals: glorifying God and satisfying the yearnings of the flesh. Matthew 6:24 tells us, “No man can serve two masters.”

How we need to look to the Captain of our salvation. In the Garden, he cried out, “Nevertheless not my will, but thine be done.” We look at the grace of God at work in the Apostle Paul’s life when he was on the Damascus road. Paul cried out, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” We see the singleness of eye, the utter disregard for personal interests in the Apostle Paul’s entire devotion to the service of his Master. In I Cor. 9:27, Paul says, “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection.”

May we pray for a single eye for the glory of our God, and a single eye that we follow in Jesus’ footsteps. The Light of the Word of God must be held before our eyes, filling them with light. Pray for that single eye. Pray for that eye that you may see clearly. Our focus must be on our great covenant God and His marvelous love manifested towards us in Jesus Christ. Is it yours? When God fills our eye, all else fades in comparison A single eye: is it yours! “None of us liveth to himself; for whether we live, we live unto the Lord, or whether we die, we die unto the Lord. Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”

Take my life and let it be, consecrated Lord unto Thee, Take my hands and let them move at the impulse of Thy love, At the impulse of Thy love. Take my feet and let them be Swift and beautiful for Thee; Take my voice and let me sing Always, only, for my King, Always, only, for my King. Take my lips and let them be Filled with messages for Thee; Take my silver and my gold - Not a mite would I withhold, Not a mite would I withhold. Take my love- my God, I pour At Thy feet its treasure store: Take myself - and I will be Ever, only, all for Thee, Ever, only, all for Thee.”  ~ H. A. Cesar Malan, 1787-1864

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The Call to Servants of the Lord to Bless the Lord

This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma.

The Call to Servants of the Lord to Bless the Lord

Meditation on Psalm 134 

Behold, Bless ye the LORD, all ye servants of the LORD, which by night stand in the house of the Lord. Lift up you r hands in the sanctuary, and bless the LORD. The LORD that made heaven and earth bless thee out of Zion.

This is the last Song of Ascent, and the shortest. What progress has been made as these psalms were put together. At the beginning of these psalms, God’s people were far from the temple, seeing it from afar. But with joy, they kept on going till they were finally at the door of the temple. Entering the temple, they joined in unified worship. “Behold how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in were they called to do? These temple servants were the Levites. They were the assistants to the priests. They worked in the temple unity.” Now it was time to go back home. In Psalm 134, there was a call to the temple servants, who serve at night, to bless the LORD.

Who are these servants, and what was their work? They were gate keepers, guards at the door, singers, janitors cleaning and preparing the temple for the next day’s activities. Theirs was a hard and menial work, working day and night. They would lodge at the temple so that the temple would be ready for the morning services. They “stand” , we read, being ready in their place of service.

They were called to “Bless the Lord.” The word means “to speak well of”. We do not give something to God. The word means to praise the LORD joyfully and willingly. In verse 2, they were told to “lift up your hands in the sanctuary.” In their work in the temple, as they prepare for the sacrifices, and clean the floors of the blood, they were to give themselves wholeheartedly in devotion of God. At night, the crowds and pilgrims are gone, but the activity of the temple was busy. How would these servants carry out their menial jobs? Would they half-heartedly clean the floor, or sleepily guard the doors, or slowly get the materials for the next day ready? No! Even though no one would observe them at their work, they were called to do their work with whole-hearted devotion and love to God!

The literal temple in Jerusalem is no more. What does this psalm say to you and me? Who are these servants, and how are they serving God still today in the night? Are they not the ministers of God’s Word? Yes, you hear them on Sunday as they proclaim the gospel. But as you leave the worship services, do you encourage and pray for your minister as he carries out his work during the week? A lot of the work is done out of your sight. It might seem rather menial: teach catechism, lead societies, lead consistory and council meetings, visit the sick and aged, spend long hours in the study immersed in God’s Word and preparing sermons. It is hard work. How is it done? Is it with the same zeal and devotion as the preaching of God’s Word on Sunday when everyone is watching and listening? “Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and bless the LORD.” Oh minister, be devoted to your God and his worship in all of your tasks!

Are not the servants of the LORD, which serve at night, God’s people as they leave the worship services and go back to their homes and their workweek? Whether it is cleaning the house or feeding the family, or working in the factory or field or office, perhaps our work seems so menial and insignificant. But God has called you to that service. Do it now with all the passion and devotion of serving the LORD. Bless the LORD in all of your labors, even if no one else sees or notices your work!

Why is this important? Did you notice how many times in this psalm the LORD is mentioned? Five times! It is His covenant name that is mentioned, even though that is not readily apparent in the psalm.(Sadly, the KJV authors followed the Jews by replacing the name Jehovah with the word LORD in all capital letters.) He is the great “I AM”. He is faithful even when we are not. He is the creator. He is the one who blesses His people “out of Zion.” He pours out His blessings upon his church through our Lord Jesus Christ! He is worthy of your and my wholehearted devotion, love, and willing service.

How we need to ask God for forgiveness when in our everyday work, we carry it out in a careless or detached way. Maybe at times we are even resentful that we have these callings. How often we can waste away our time. We are called to “lift up your hands in the sanctuary.” May we not just go through the motions without passion, or neglect opportunities to serve the Lord with gladness in our everyday occupations. Live consciously before the Lord, and speak well of Him. Whether worshipping in God’s house on Sunday or doing the rather menial tasks of the weekdays, do it for the Lord in loving, willing, and eager devotion! “Bless ye the LORD, all ye servants of the LORD, which by night stand in the house of the LORD.”

Ye saints, your joy proclaim and glory in the Name, Of God above; And when the daylight dies, ere sleep shall close your eyes, Let praise to God arise for all his love.”  ~ Felice Giardini

 

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Covenant Reformed News - July 2020

Covenant Reformed News


July 2020 • Volume XVIII, Issue 3



Justification and the Five Solas

Romans 4:1-3 teaches all of the five Reformation solas or alones or onlys. Justification is by faith alone (sola fide). It is not by works: “For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God” (2). Justification is only by faith: “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (3).

Justification is through grace alone (sola gratia), since it is not by works in any shape or form (2).

Justification by faith alone and through grace alone is taught in Scripture alone (sola Scriptura): “For what saith the scripture [not fallen man or the wicked world or the false church or even the true church]? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (3). Here we have New Testament Scripture quoting Old Testament Scripture (Gen. 15:6). Clearly, Old Testament justification and New Testament justification are the same, though the latter part of God’s Word reveals this truth more fully.

Justification by faith alone through grace alone according to Scripture alone is to the glory of God alone (soli Deo gloria). When Romans 4:2 says, “For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God,” it presupposes that the sinner’s justification is designed to bring glory not to man but to the blessed Trinity.

Justification by faith alone through grace alone according to Scripture alone and to the glory of God alone is in Christ alone (solus Christus). Justification is not by Abraham’s (or any man’s) works (2) and so it must be on the basis of someone else’s righteousness. The threefold promise to Abraham embraced the blessing, the seed and the land, all of which are only in Christ: blessing (Gal. 3:13-14), seed (16, 29) and land (Rom. 4:13; Eph. 1:10). That our justification is in Christ alone is clearly taught in chapters 3, 5 and 10 of Romans, as well as many other places (e.g., Jer. 23:5-6; I Cor. 1:30; 6:11; II Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:9; II Pet. 1:1).

“What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?” (Rom. 4:1). The issue here is not merely what the Bible says about Abraham but also what he personally found, discovered, learned, experienced or came to know. Abraham grasped that if he “were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God” (2). The patriarch understood that he had nothing in which he could boast. He had been an idolater in Ur (Josh. 24:2), and knew that all his works were sinful and could never withstand God’s intense and holy scrutiny.

Positively, Abraham found and discovered, by God’s grace, that justification is by faith alone: “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (Rom. 4:3). He knew that he was righteous before God with a perfect imputed righteousness that would stand at the final judgment: the righteousness of God in the coming Messiah. No wonder Abraham rejoiced to see Christ’s day and was glad (John 8:56)!

Have you found what Abraham found: Christ’s righteousness reckoned to your account by believing the gospel? Let us continually learn the riches and depths of this truth in all its glory and comfort! Rev. Stewart

 

The Well-Meant Offer and Organic Unity (2)

1) Another question of a reader is in response to the charge we make against the gracious and well-meant offer, that it teaches that God changes from loving all men to casting them into hell—surely a revelation of divine hatred. But God is immutable, that is, He does not and cannot change. Yet the reader claims that He does change.

“Was there not a moment in eternity when God did not create? Followed by a moment when He was creating all things and then followed by another moment when He stopped or was no longer creating? Isn’t that God changing? God can do whatever He wants, wishes, desires, etc., to do. Therefore, He can choose to ‘love’ an individual for a time, for whatever reason or purpose He deems proper, and then choose to ‘hate’ that same individual, as He pleases.”

The reader has made some serious mistakes in his question. One error is that he speaks of time in God’s counsel: “a moment in eternity.” The fact is that time itself is a creation of God (II Tim. 1:9). God is eternal and He determined that time would be made at the creation of the earth. It is a denial of God’s attribute of eternity to say time is in His decree (or in Him) and it would also mean that God changes, a denial of His immutability.

The second problem with the question is its insistence that God can do what He pleases (irrespective of His Being or nature). This sounds very much like the arguments of the Roman Catholic scholastics who discussed questions such as these: “Since God is omnipotent, can He create two mountains without a valley between or a stone so heavy that He cannot lift it? Since God is omnipotent, can He sin?” The answer to all these frivolous questions is: God can and does only that which is in harmony with His own divine Being or nature, and so also with truth or the law of non-contradiction.

The answer to the reader’s question itself is clear: “I am the Lord; I change not” (Mal. 3:6; cf. Num. 23:19; Heb. 1:10-12). That means exactly what it says. God’s counsel, therefore, is as eternal as He is. History is God working out His eternal counsel, part of which is the creature we call “time.”

The relation between eternity and time is a profound mystery. I have often pondered it and even discussed it with one of my colleagues. But we know that God’s ways are inscrutable and we are mere specks of dust with only a little understanding of His mighty works.

2) The more we come into contact with the gospel, the greater is our knowledge of the way of salvation and the greater is the divine requirement of us. In this sense, the saying of our Saviour in Luke 12:47 holds true: “And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.” This statement is applied especially to those who labour in the vineyard of the Lord, yet the principle is of far broader extent.

The men of Nineveh and the Queen of Sheba will rise up in judgment against the generation of the Jews of Jesus’ day, and condemn them (Matt. 12:41-42), for they, though less privileged, gave more honour to the Word of the Lord. Sodom, Tyre and Sidon will find it more tolerable in the day of judgment than the cities of Galilee where Jesus laboured most (11:20-24), for they never heard the New Testament gospel, which the Jews received in richer measure. Does not this greater responsibility find its explanation in the fact that the preaching of the gospel is, indeed, a wonderful thing?

Generally speaking, the questioner is stating a clear and true principle of one’s relation to the gospel: the closer one stands to the pure preaching of the gospel, the greater is his responsibility. Luke 12:47, referred to by the questioner, clearly states this.

It is well that the implication of this is impressed upon us. We in Reformed and Presbyterian churches have a long and noble tradition to hold, brought to us by the gospel. But what has happened in America and Europe? These same churches have become unfaithful for the most part. Many have fallen away into materialism and worldliness. Many, rejecting the gospel, have joined sects or have abandoned Scripture altogether. Many have corrupted the truth with the heresy of Arminianism. The true church is a hut “in a garden of cucumbers,” a “besieged city,” a “very small remnant” (Isa. 1:8, 9). Think of the judgment that shall come on those who have departed into apostasy in comparison with heathen in the Orient who worship idols of silver and stone. The awful responsibility that is implied in the question makes one get on his knees and beg for mercy.

However, it is not at all the case that Luke 12:47 speaks of the gracious and well-meant gospel offer. There is nothing in the passage referring to God’s blessing upon, or love for, absolutely all who hear the preaching. There is only a warning that their judgment is greater because in unbelief they reject the fuller revelation of the gospel.

When we consider the Scriptures’ teaching, we learn something very different from the Arminian theory. The preaching of the gospel to many who reject it is indeed good. It is like the rain and sunshine that come upon the fields of all farmers. That is not common grace: that is common rain and sunshine. But is not every gift of God good? Does he ever give bad gifts? He sends terrible judgments upon the wicked, but His gifts are wonderful and always good.

If what God does for anyone in giving him his daily bread is good, is the coronavirus bad? Does God suddenly decide to give bad things to man when He usually gives good gifts? What constitutes good gifts? And what constitutes bad gifts? What we like is good? What we dislike is a bad gift? Is good and bad determined by how we feel about what God sends into our life?

I do not understand this type of reasoning. The fact is that God’s gifts in themselves are good. God never gives bad gifts. But is rain grace? Ought the farmer consider the drought that destroyed his crops a bad gift from God? There are a lot of people who, when faced with this dilemma, say, “No, the devil sends bad things; God sends only good things.” When four preachers from four different denominations were quizzed on TV about the terrorists’ destruction of the World Trade Center (11 September, 2001), they were asked by the host, “Did God send this disaster? Or even have anything to do with it?” None would answer in the affirmative. The host was so incensed that, though not a Christian himself, he walked away.

Though all God’s gifts are good, those who use them to sin suffer greater punishment for misusing them. If the prodigal son in Luke 15 was one who misused his portion of the inheritance in riotous living, does that make the father’s gift to him bad? It was good, was it not, regardless of how the wayward son used it? Scripture teaches that all things are good for His people, even calamities (Rom. 8:28), but all things are curses upon the wicked. Read Psalm 73 and Proverbs 3:33.

But we are talking about the preaching of the gospel. Scripture looks at this from God’s side. In Isaiah 55:8-11, we are told that God’s Word never returns to Him void. He does not bring the gospel to all men in grace and then find that men foiled His plans. The gospel is like the rain that God sends. It surely makes the crops grow but it also makes the thorns grow. That is, it is “the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16) to the elect but it is also the means He uses to harden sinners who reject the gospel. This same figure is found in Hebrews 6:7-8 in connection with the unpardonable sin.

I appeal, finally, to II Corinthians 2:14-17. Paul recognizes that there are many who have heard his ministry but rejected the command that comes to them to believe in Christ. But, he says, in any case, faithful preachers are pleasing to God whether the gospel is believed or rejected, for the gospel always accomplishes His purpose. In some, it continues to bring life, over and over, until it finally brings everlasting life in heaven; but for others, who are spiritually dead, it works death that becomes worse and worse until it ends in hell. But, says Paul, God always makes the preaching of the gospel triumph, for it always accomplishes the purpose He intends.

No wonder the apostle says, “who is sufficient for these things?” (16). It is a difficult thing for a minister of the gospel to see the Word of God rejected, especially in his own congregation but also on the mission field. But, Paul goes on to say, “Because of our pain in seeing the gospel rejected, we do not make the gospel more palatable by corrupting it with preaching so that the minister says to the sinner, ‘God loves you and wants to save you’” (cf. 17).

God’s sovereign purpose is always accomplished, not because men reject His love but because He is sovereign in all He does. Let us bow in humility before a sovereign God who does all His good pleasure and worship Him as God alone! Prof. Hanko
 


Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR • Lord’s Day services at 11 am & 6 pm
Website: https://cprc.co.uk/ • Live broadcast: cprc.co.uk/live-streaming/
Pastor: Angus Stewart, 7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland, BT42 3NR • (028) 25 891851  
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