Missions of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America

Covenant Reformed News - June 2018

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Covenant Reformed News


June 2018 • Volume XVII, Issue 2



Does God Change? (2)

The question addressed in the last Covenant Reformed News brought up Ephesians 2:3, which describes believers prior to their conversion: “Among whom [i.e., the ungodly] also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.”

Some wrongly understand “wrath” as the equivalent of hatred. Thus they teach that God hates the elect before He regenerates them. Since Scripture clearly declares that Jehovah loves His chosen ones before their spiritual birth (4-5), before their physical birth (Rom. 9:10-13), before the cross (I John 4:9-10) and even before the foundation of the world (Jer. 31:3), their doctrine is that God both loves and hates those chosen in Christ prior to their conversion.

If the Most High is able both to love and hate His elect before their effectual call, then, they claim, He can both love and hate the reprobate, those from whom He sovereignly wills to hide spiritually the gospel so that they do not believe and are not saved (Matt. 11:25-27). The Westminster Confession summarizes the Bible’s teaching on reprobation: “The rest of mankind, God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of his own will, whereby he extendeth or withholdeth mercy as he pleaseth, for the glory of his sovereign power over his creatures, to pass by, and to ordain them to dishonour and wrath for their sin, to the praise of his glorious justice” (3:7).

The intent of their appeal to Ephesians 2:3 is to support the well-meant offer: an earnest (though completely useless) divine desire or wish to save all men head for head. This position needs, first, a general or universal love or grace of God which passionately wills to save the reprobate, that is, to elect, redeem, regenerate, effectually call, give faith and repentance to, justify, illuminate, indwell, sanctify, seal, preserve, comfort and glorify those whom He has eternally appointed “to dishonour and wrath for their sin, to the praise of his glorious justice.” What a glaring contradiction!

Second, this view requires an explanation or justification of a divine attitude—or, rather, attitudes!—of hatred and love towards the reprobate. Hence the appeal to Ephesians 2:3. If God can both love and hate the elect (prior to their regeneration), then He can both hate and love the reprobate (in time)!

The first insuperable problem with this scheme is that Holy Scripture nowhere teaches that Jehovah loves the reprobate. Instead, it repeatedly states that He eternally and justly hates them for their sins (e.g., Ps. 5:5-6; 11:5-6; Prov. 16:4-5). Whereas the dogma of the well-meant offer is “Jacob have I loved and hated, but Esau have I hated and loved,” what the Bible actually says is this: “As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (Rom. 9:13; Mal. 1:2-3).

Second, if the Most High really hates all the objects of His wrath, then He even hates the Lord Jesus! Scripture reveals that Christ is our propitiation (Rom. 3:25; I John 2:2; 4:10), that is, the One who, under the terrible burden of God’s wrath, bore the punishment due to the elect for all their sins (Heidelberg Catechism, A. 17).

Third, and similarly, if Jehovah hates all the objects of His wrath, then He also hates believers! Thus holy David speaks of his experience of Jehovah’s “wrath” and “hot displeasure” (Ps. 38:1), and “anger” and “hot displeasure” (6:1). Every saint knows this divine chastening (1), “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth” (Heb. 12:6; cf. 7-8).

What a wretched, comfortless message for the child of God that necessarily follows from the erroneous interpretation of Ephesians 2:3 by those who twist it in support of their well-meant offer: not only did Jehovah hate each and every saint before their regeneration, but He also hates us now, after our conversion! What a terrifying thought for the distressed Christian: “God loves and hates me, and He also loves and hates those who will perish everlastingly!”

So what, positively, does the phrase in Ephesians 2:3 mean? By itself, “the children of wrath” could refer to people who indulge in sinful anger. The other option is that the text refers to God’s wrath. I am not aware of anyone who holds the first position.

While the elect were unregenerate, we were under “the wrath of God,” for we walked in “ungodliness and unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:18). In this, we were just like the reprobate, as Ephesians 2:3 says, “even as others.” Moreover, we “were by nature the children of wrath” (3). That is, we did not become such by, for example, picking up vicious habits but we were born totally depraved. We were the children of wrath innately and inherently, as those conceived and born in sin (Ps. 51:5).

The elect before their new birth were under God’s wrath and, especially at certain times, we deeply felt it! We experienced guilt, shame, the fear of death and the apprehension of hell awaiting us, as those who were not right with God and under His wrath.

Jehovah never has hated and never will hate His elect in Jesus Christ; we are the objects of His love alone—eternally and unchangeably (Eph. 1:4; 2:4). It would have been unjust for God to lavish the experience of this love upon us while we walked in unbelief. Instead, He manifested His righteous wrath upon us in our sins.
Through faith in Christ, we are now reconciled to God and know His love towards us. If we walk impenitently in iniquity, our loving God shows us His anger and chastises us, in order to bring us back into the enjoyment of His fatherly embrace.  Rev. Stewart
 

Divide the Baby in Two!

A reader asks, “When Solomon ordered a living baby to be cut in half (I Kings 3:23-28), was he not guilty of sin against the sixth and/or the ninth commandments?”

We must, first of all, have the situation before us. Two female prostitutes came to Solomon with a problem. Each of them had given birth to a baby which they took with them to bed each evening. During one night, one mother lay on her baby and smothered it. But she exchanged her dead baby for the living baby, and acted as if the living baby were her baby and the dead baby were her friend’s baby. They could not resolve the dispute between them, so they went to King Solomon to settle the problem.

We must remember that this incident is recorded in Scripture in order to demonstrate the wisdom of Solomon. Solomon was the wisest man in the world at that time for, in answer to his prayer, God had given him this amazing wisdom (5-14). As such, he was a type of Christ, the eternal wisdom of God (Prov. 8; I Cor. 1:24; Col. 2:3). From a certain point of view, it is surprising that the Bible should choose this incident in Solomon’s reign to demonstrate his profound wisdom. After all, both women were prostitutes and one would expect that they would be punished for their immoral lives.

Solomon’s decision was not a shot in the dark, so to speak. Nor did he really intend to commit himself to murder, when he suggested that the living child be cut in half. His command to divide the baby in two was based upon a knowledge of human nature, that God has so created women that they have an inner longing to bring children into the world and care for them. A mother would give her life for her child. The baby whom a mother bears is more important than anything else in the world. The baby is part of her life.

Scripture suggests this as well. Where this is not evident in a mother, the horrible power of sin has overcome her. Isaiah reminds Judah of God’s faithfulness, when they claim that He has forgotten them: “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb?” (Isa. 49:15; cf. John 16:21).

One woman who stood before Solomon had such a strong love for her child that she was willing that, rather than see it killed, she would give it to the other woman. On the other hand, that other woman would just as soon see it die, rather than her companion have it. 

What a terrible sin it is for a woman in our day, for no other reason than to satisfy her selfish desires, to abort her baby before it is born or forsake it when it is born. Such a mother acts contrary to her created nature and is so self-centred that she will give up the fruit of her womb. She would rather lose her child than give up her pleasures.

I had an uncle and an aunt who were foster parents to a boy with Down’s syndrome. His biological parents, both with careers, could not be bothered with him. He grew up under Christian influences in the home and church, made confession of faith in the church and still serves as an usher. He is a godly man who is faithful to the truth.

But part of sin in this world is the fact that, if we want something badly enough but cannot have it, we would rather that no one have it. A child, fighting over a toy truck with his brother, would rather that his mother not allow his brother to have the truck either, if he cannot have it. Jealousy is a strange sin! We would rather that no one has what we want than another get it.

There is one more possibility, although it is somewhat speculative. It is, however, possible and there is some reason to adopt it: the true mother of the baby was converted through this dramatic incident in her life. God may have showed her the sin of prostitution, and made her aware of her need to repent and seek His mercy.

If this is true, Solomon may have seen this in her and determined that the baby was her child. The reasons why this could be true are, first of all, that the inspired Scriptures use this incident in the life of Solomon to demonstrate his wisdom. Wisdom in the Bible is a spiritual attribute. James tells those to whom he writes that, if they lack wisdom, let them ask of God (1:5).

There is a worldly “wisdom,” James also tells us, but it is “earthly, sensual, devilish” (3:15). It is a sort of wisdom that solves purely earthly problems. Only God’s people have the true wisdom that is “from above,” and is “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy” (17). Solomon possessed true wisdom which he asked of God.

I cannot imagine that Scripture would use this incident to display Solomon’s wisdom, if that wisdom were merely an earthly, sensual, devilish wisdom. It would, it seems to me, be all that, if Solomon made his decision solely on his knowledge of sinful human nature.

If what I propose is correct, then Solomon saw in the true mother not only a purely natural yearning for her baby but a spiritual love: she viewed her baby as a covenant child who had a place in the church of Christ. The thought of such a baby being slain was more than she could bear. The sin of killing it was almost as bad as that of those Israelites who offered their children to Moloch in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom. It was, she thought, better that her adversary have her baby than that it should die.

Her adversary, on the other hand, did not care about spiritual things. That the infant was a covenant child was of no concern of her, nor did she even think in these terms. Divide the baby in two! That would be better than if her adversary kept the baby, while she had no children.

This interpretation appeals to me very much. Solomon was, after all, a type of Christ. He was a type, as the ruler of a beautiful and wealthy kingdom. He sought the spiritual welfare of those under him. So the Lord Jesus is King of a heavenly kingdom, far surpassing the kingdom of Solomon in glory and riches. Christ establishes His kingdom for His blood-bought people whom He saves in the line of generations: believers and their children who are precious in His sight (Gen. 17:7; II Tim. 1:5). Here was a mother who had no love for God’s covenant, and a mother who suddenly saw the amazing truth that Jehovah saves believing parents and their children to bring them into His own covenant life. She understood that and so did Solomon. He, in his God-given wisdom, knew how covenant mothers love their children! Prof. Hanko

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

21-28 July 2018

Hebron Hall
Conference Centre

South Wales

Theme:
The Reformed Family—According to the Word of God

Speakers:
Prof. David Engelsma
Rev. Andy Lanning

All are welcome to attend the worship services and lectures.

Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
for the conference programme
or check the conference website
http://brfconference.weebly.com/
Here We Stand
Commemorating the 500th Anniversary of
the Reformation

(208 pp., softback)

The massive development of the sixteenth-century Reformation included the crucial issues of justification by faith alone, the supreme authority of Scripture and biblical worship. This book also covers two lesser-known, yet highly significant, aspects of the Reformation: the unique progress of the Reformation in the Lowlands and the Reformers’ response to the Anabaptist radicals. The chapters of Here We Stand are written by Prof. Ron Cammenga (editor), Rev. David Torlach, Prof. Barry Gritters, Rev. Martyn McGeown, Prof. Russell Dykstra and Rev. Steven Key.

£8.80 (inc. P&P)
Order from the 
CPRC Bookstore
by post or telephone
7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland BT42 3NR
(028) 25891851
.
Make cheques payable to “Covenant Protestant Reformed Church.”
Thank you!

Jonathan: David’s Covenant Friend

10 sermons by Rev. Martyn McGeown on CD or DVD in an attractive box set 

This new series of sermons from passages in I & II Samuel sets forth the beautiful character of Jonathan: his courage, humility and faithfulness, especially in his covenant friendship with David, a glorious type of Christ our King!  “Whatever fitness he might have shown for the kingdom, had he been called to it, a more unselfish, warm-hearted, genuine or noble character is not presented to us in Scripture than that of Jonathan” (Alfred Edersheim).

(1) Jonathan’s Preemptive Strike at Geba (I Sam. 13:3)
(2) Jonathan’s Daring Attack at Michmash (I Sam. 14:1-23)
(3) Jonathan Transgresses Saul’s Oath (I Sam. 14:24-45)
(4) Jonathan Befriends David
(I Sam. 18:1-4)
(5) Jonathan Intercedes for David
(I Sam. 19:1-7)
(6) Jonathan: A Friend in David’s Need (I Sam. 20:1-23)
(7) Jonathan Helps David Flee From Saul (I Sam. 20:24-42)
(8) Jonathan Strengthens David’s Hand in God (I Sam. 23:16-18)
(9) David Laments for Jonathan
(II Sam. 1:17-27)
(10) David Shows Kindness for Jonathan’s Sake (II Sam. 9)

£10/box set (inc. P&P)

LIsten free on-line
or order from the
CPRC Bookstore
by post or telephone
7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland BT42 3NR
(028) 25891851

Make cheques payable to “Covenant Protestant Reformed Church.”
Thank you!
Last modified on 14 July 2018

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