Have you ever met Harry? He is one of those fellows who is not so very interested in the worship service or various activities of the church. The first thing Harry does after he is ushered to his seat in church, is settle down as comfortably as possible. Then he struggles through a tradition prayer. During congregational singing, Harry mumbles along as best he can. The songs of God’s praise don’t stir his heart. When the minister leads the congregation in prayer, Harry sleeps. When Christ speaks to his people through the minister, Harry is restlessly watching his watch or he is far off in some distant land to which only sound sleep call bring him. Harry is the first to complain about the long-windedness of the servant of God. Harry wasn’t spiritually fed and strengthened because he never listened for the voice of Christ as he spoke through the minister. Harry says to his friends that he doesn’t get ouch out of the sermons either. In societies Harry is a quiet fellow—bored to death really. He hasn’t prepared for the society meeting and he doesn’t participate in its discussions. You can’t discuss the things of the church with Harry because Harry doesn’t know much about these things. Harry doesn’t read much either you know. But Harry is a most interesting fellow during the week. He plays softball two or three nights a week. He is the real hot shot on the ball diamond. Harry is a real talkative fellow when it comes to sports, cars, girls, or most anything else, but he is man concerning the church and the things of God’s kingdom. In the sphere of the church Harry is deaf and dumb.
I pity Harry.
The center of Harry’s life is not the church of Christ. It certainly is a most blessed thing, however, when one can say that he finds his delight and joy among the people of God and in worship with them. There are families and individuals who express by their walk that they find their life’s purpose solely in the church of Christ. You can tell by their walk among us. Many may say that they find their joy in the church, but does their walk confirm their speech or betray them? There are a few elements of church life which we should consider in this connection to determine whether or not the center of our life is the church of Christ.
The spiritual names of the child of God are “thirsty one” and “hungering one.” Such a one comes to church regularly. But he is not there just to fill his customary place in the pew, he is there with a desire to partake of the bread of life and of the water of life—Christ Jesus himself. He is not there to take a “cat nap,” but to feed his soul. Such a one worships God! During the congregational prayer, he prays. He too brings the needs of the congregation in prayer before the throne of God. When he has the opportunity to praise God with his fellow saints in song, he sings making a joyful noise unto God. Maybe he doesn’t have a good voice, but he sings anyway because he is conscious of the fact that congregational singing is part of the worship service. Something which some of us seem to forget. Do you sing in church or just mumble along which is dishonoring to God?
Also the people of God desire and seek the communion and fellowship of one another especially as they are one in public confession. They desire one another’s fellowship because the truth of God’s Word lives in their hearts. They come to young people’s societies so that as individuals and society they may study the Scriptures and enjoy an hour of Christian fellowship. Young people’s societies are not just another social club, but a society which has the study of God’s Word and related matters as its uniting force.
To live along with the church also means that we read the Beacon Lights not only but also the Standard Bearer. If you do not read the Standard Bearer, I would urge you to do so. Of course, it is not the official church paper as some have mistakenly imagined, but it is a source of edification and an opportunity to keep up with developments in other churches. It certainly is sad when the people of God can not because of ignorance of the facts discuss intelligently developments in our own churches and in the church world in general.
When we find our pleasure elsewhere than in the church of Christ it is an occasion for humility and repentance. All too often, our major concern in life is sports, money, recreation, etc.; but those who live with the church, walk with her in all her manifestations, experience the joy of communion with God and his people.
Before we present the outline proper in regard to our subject, let us set forth the principle of God’s Word that truly governs our subject. The principle is this, that our friendships must reflect the bond of friendship between God and His people in Christ Jesus. This implies that our friendships have their basis in righteousness. That this is the only proper view point in regard to the subject of friendship can easily be demonstrated from Scripture. Let me call your attention to but one text by way of introduction. The Lord Jesus Christ, through the psalmist David, confessed: “I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts.” -Psalm 119:63
I. The Covenant of Grace as the basis for our friendships among men.
A. The Covenant is a living bond of friendship between Jehovah God and His people in Jesus Christ.
1. The nature of the Covenant:
1) Not a covenant which is merely a temporary contractual relationship between God and man, which would imply various divine stipulations and conditions to be fulfilled by man.
2) Nor a covenant established conditionally with every child born in the Church.
3) Why not:
a) This very prevalent conception of the Covenant is cold and mechanical and lifeless.
b) Further, it presents the Covenant as a temporary relationship and not eternal.
c) It presents the Covenant of Grace as something outside of eternal life, but necessary to the attainment of it. Therefore, the covenant is viewed as something to be discarded after salvation is attained.
1) Our conception of the Covenant of Grace is that it is an eternal bond of friendship between God and His people in Christ Jesus. Gen. 17:7; 12:1-5
2) The Covenant of Grace designed and willed by God from all eternity. Eph. 1
3) The Covenant established historically by God with His people chosen in Christ Jesus.
a) Negatively, not established with Cain, Lamech, Nimrod, Canaan and Ham.
b) Positively, but it was established with Abel, Seth, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
c) Thus two lines in all of history:
1/ The line of the reprobate who are from all eternity excluded from the Covenant of Grace.
2/ The line of the elect with whom He established His Covenant of Grace in Christ according to His holy and sovereignly free purpose.
B. Proof from Scripture that the Covenant of Grace in its nature is a bond of friendship between God and His chosen people in Christ Jesus.
1. The actual relationship of Israel to Jehovah God according to God’s own institution.
a. The tabernacle and temple symbolically testify of Jehovah God dwelling with His chosen people in love.
b. Noah and Enoch and Abraham walked with God according to Scripture.
c. The imposed law of God as representing the boundaries of that Covenant relationship. Thus the law is a Word of love and grace to Israel.
2. From the New Testament;
a. Jesus Himself described his relation to His people as a relationship of friendship. John 15:14-15.
b. He that is the friend of God is the enemy of the world. I John 2:15-18, James 4:4.
c. The life of good works is friendship with God. James 2:23.
d. The Spirit of God sent to dwell in our hearts (not a building as in the Old Dispensation) as our Sovereign Friend. John 14:26; 15:26, Eph. 2:22.
II. The Biblical idea of friendship.
A. A bond of love between two which is based upon the righteousness of life and heart towards God.
1. Elements of friendship.
a. Negatively: the opposite of hostility, bitterness and loneliness.
1) Friendship is an openness and a willingness to share one’s life, in all its aspects, with another.
2) Friendship implies a common commitment to the truth of God’s Word and law. Amos 2:3.
3) Friendship requires self-denial for the good and advantage of one’s friend.
2. Examples from Scripture.
a. David and Jonathan – I Samuel 19 and 20
b. Jesus and His disciples – John 15:14-15.
c. Jesus’ relationship to Mary, Martha and Lazarus – John 11:11.
III. Our friendships among God’s people.
A. How to make friends among God’s people.
a. Some young people in the Church are lonely and find it difficult to receive from others, acceptance. This is a most painful experience for all.
b. However, often the fault for this resides in one’s own sinful attitude (not always, but often).
1) The lonely are often rejected because they are unbearably self-righteous. In their view, the young people of the Church are never any good.
2) The lonely often violate the simple principle that we are to put our trust in the work of God’s grace in the young people of the Church.
3) Others conduct themselves in a superior or haughty manner.
2. Positively: Proverbs 18:24, “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.”
B. The responsibility of one in a relationship of friendship
a. Friendships are often formed for the wrong reasons.
1) Social advancement
2) For selfish gain
1) Proverbs 14:20
2) Luke 23:12
a. A true friend in the Lord seeks his friend’s well-being both physically and spiritually.
1) Proverbs 14:20
2) Luke 23:12
b. A friend in the Lord does not lead one into sin.
1) Galatians 6:1
2) Prov. 27:9
IV. Our Calling to be thankful for the gift of a godly friend and friends.
A. The friendship of the saints is itself a gift of God to us.
1. Because God established friendship with men in Christ Jesus, elect believers can have friendships with one another. (True friendship not possible among unbelievers)
2. This is one of the blessings merited for us by our Lord Jesus by His death on the cross.
B. Our calling to be thankful to God for this blessed gift.
1. It is gross ingratitude for a believer to deal meanly or to be unfriendly to any of God’s people.
2. We walk in thankfulness when we seek one another in the Lord.
1. May the believer develop and maintain friendships with a “decent” person of the world?
2. Are our friendships solely to be established with fellow saints in our own churches? May we not establish friendships with other believers? Can friendships with other saints ever be as rewarding?
3. Do you rebuke your friend with he/she walks in sin? Will you accept the rebuke of your friend?
4. Are your friendships a reflection of God’s Covenant of friendship?
5. Is it sin to court or accept a date from one who is unbelieving? Is it valid to claim in this connection, how can one know without first dating?
6. Is it sin to marry an unbeliever?
Suffering is an aspect of human life. Suffering is common to all men. Most people do not want to talk about this aspect of their life. They would rather ignore this harsh reality. It is therefore, strange that young people would desire to discuss this subject. Young people are foreigners to physical pain and suffering. They enjoy, generally speaking, health and strength of mind and body. Besides they are protected from abuse by their parents.
However, this theme is appropriate for you, the young people, if we are mindful who we are as the young people of the Protestant Reformed Churches. We are believers in the name of Christ Jesus. We bear the mark of God’s covenant friendship! In the old dispensation, the men of Israel bore the physical sign of circumcision and this mark declared to them each day that they were God’s chosen and beloved people. We too bear the mark of God’s covenant. This mark is not now physical and visible, but it is the mark of the sacrament of baptism. And not merely the fact that we received the outward sign, but, rather, that we have the spiritual realities signified in baptism. We have been washed in the blood of Christ. We have received the Spirit of Christ with the result that we confess His name and live according to the commandments of God. We have been made to be, by God’s grace, His people and we possess the spiritual realities signified in baptism as the mark of God’s covenant of grace in Christ Jesus.
We are, with all of God’s people, the living among the dead, the Church in the midst of the world, the friends of the living God among those who hate Him and His Word.
Therefore, we expect suffering and know it to be an inevitable part of the life of faith. In that light, to talk about it is most appropriate for us.
It may be helpful to point out the relationship of this second speech to the first and the third speeches for this convention. Suffering for Christ’s sake is the result of both confession of Christ’s name and our service to God. The first speech is, Saved to Speak; and the third speech is Saved to Serve. Our subject naturally follows upon these truths for the Christian suffers because the world hates his speech and despises his service of God.
With the above as introduction, I ask you to consider with me our theme. Saved In the Way of Suffering, by first considering 1) Suffering for Righteousness Sake; 2) Suffering in Hope; and 3) Suffering with the Saints.
Suffering for Righteousness Sake
We must ask what is the nature of this suffering? Let us distinguish the suffering for righteousness sake from other kinds of suffering. In general, we may observe that suffering can differ as to form and have many different causes. Suffering as to form can be psychological suffering of the mind and will. For example, the suffering of fear or guilt. Suffering can also be physical, of course. In addition, suffering can have different causes. First of all, all men, believers and unbelievers, suffer because of God’s curse upon creation. Illness and disease are the experience of all. Hurricanes and tornadoes spare none in their path. Everyone suffers. Secondly, there is that suffering that has its cause in sin. Loneliness is often caused by pride and arrogance. Diseases due to the sins of immorality befall many. The suffering that children must endure because of a parent that lives in adultery. Broken marriages, broken homes and hurting souls because of the sins of selfishness and lust. Thirdly, there is a suffering due to one’s religion, which is not a suffering for righteousness sake. Iran is a land of suffering and pain and agony in no small part because of its unbiblical Moslem ideals. Finally, there is the suffering that is for righteousness sake. All suffering is not of the same kind or nature.
This evening we will discuss only the one kind of suffering, Suffering for righteousness sake. For it alone is the way of salvation.
What is specifically this suffering for righteousness sake? Please, note in I Peter 3:14 we read, “if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake,’’ and in I Peter 4:16 we read, “Yet if any man suffer as a Christian. . Acts 5:41 declares of the disciples that they rejoiced “to suffer shame for His name.” Suffering for righteousness sake is to suffer for Jesus’ name. It is to be hated for our confession of the Reformed faith. We suffer for Jesus sake when we confess and preach that Jesus died for some, the elect, and not for all men. People hate you for your confession that man by nature has no free will unto good but is totally depraved. We suffer for righteousness sake when we live out of the principles of God’s Word as these apply to all our life. There are principles of marriage. For example, that marriage is for life; and that in marriage we are to reflect the relationship of Christ and His Church. There are principles that apply to the rearing of our children. There are principles that apply to our relationship to our employer. Every sphere of life is governed by the principles of God’s Word. Out of these we live and for them we suffer.
We should note then that suffering for righteousness sake is, first of all, inevitable. The Christian cannot escape it. We read in Philippians 1:29, “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.” Therefore, Peter wrote to the saints concerning suffering for Jesus name, “think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you.” We are to consider suffering as inevitable. Secondly, let us note the source of this suffering, or by the hand of whom do we suffer. We suffer at the hand of those who are devoid of grace and who out of the depravity of their hearts hate God as He has revealed Himself in Christ according to the Scriptures. All men have not faith. This hatred of the child of God bums fiercely among apostates. Those who once knew the Word of God and have rejected it are those who bring the Church great suffering. It was the unbelieving Jews that hated the Christ; it was the unbelieving Jews that persecuted Paul from city to city on his missionary journeys.
As young people, you must clearly understand that when you suffer at the hands of unbelievers it is because of their hatred of God and His Word. You must not imagine that it is due to your personality or social position in life. No, it is because of your love of God. The Church of Christ suffers because of its confession of the truth and because of its service to Jehovah God.
Thirdly, what is the character of this suffering? Suffering for righteousness sake is always without a cause. The occasion for this suffering is our confession and our service to God in Christ Jesus. But our suffering is without a cause in us. Do not overlook this truth. Consider what we read in Ps. 35:19, “Let not them that are mine enemies wrongfully rejoice over me: neither let them wink with the eye that hate me without a cause.” Jesus applied these words to himself in John 15:25, “But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause.” What was true of Christ is true too of the Christian, who is a partaker of Christ’s suffering. The Christian when suffering for righteousness sake suffers not having done evil to his neighbor. He is hated without a cause. The cause of this suffering for the Christian is found in the depraved heart of the ungodly. The unbeliever hates God and all who defend the honor and glory of His name.
Scripture forewarns us that we will suffer for the sake of the gospel. Allow me to quote two passages. In John 15:18-19 we read, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” And in John 16:1-3 it is stated, “These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me.”
We suffer for Christ’s sake now and will suffer in the future. You suffer now as young people, when you refuse to attend the theater and are ridiculed for your refusal. You suffer for righteousness sake when others scorn and hate you for not participating in their beer parties. You suffer for Christ’s sake when men ask scornfully, “how many children are there in your school?” Young people must bear the reproach of Christ when our churches are held in contempt because they are of “little strength.” You suffer for Christ’s name sake when you for the purpose of the establishment of a Christian marriage refuse to date unbelievers and persons of non-reformed churches. Hated because you want to date and marry one who is one in the Lord with you. God requires young people to suffer for Christ through the proper confession your father boldly makes in the community. Your father, whom you love is considered odd and peculiar.
In the future, too, you will suffer for righteousness sake. You will be the Church of tomorrow that witnesses to the Reformed faith as we as Protestant Reformed Churches have been graced to know and confess it. The false church and all antichristian persons will heap upon you their disdain. You will be mothers and fathers who may have to bear the rejection of a child because of your confession. The hatred and rejection of a son or daughter is one of the most painful experiences that God’s people are called upon at times to endure. Besides the Bible tells us that in the last days, which may not be far off, we will not be able to buy or sell. You will suffer the loss of jobs. It is possible that you will starve. Further, it is not beyond the realm of possibility, that an humanistic and carnal society will characterize true believers in Christ Jesus as mentally ill and incorrigible and thus institutionalize or imprison them.
Suffer for Christ’s name sake we will surely be called upon to do.
Suffering in Hope
Suffering is the way of salvation. We are saved in the way of suffering. This is our theme. The salvation spoken of is salvation from the viewpoint of our complete victory in the glory of heaven. The way to heaven is through suffering for righteousness sake.
We must answer the question: why is suffering the way unto complete salvation and glory in heaven? The answer is, because we suffer for the principles of the gospel of Christ. The truths of the Word in regard to God, Christ, the sinner, the church, and every other aspect of our life are the principles of the Word of God. These principles govern our life by God’s grace. We are committed to them. God has made us to be disciples of the Lord. We live our lives by them and out of them. These principles are the stepping stones upon which we walk to glory. He who refuses to live out of these principles, forsakes them, walks upon the pathway to hell. Therefore, we insist on these principles of the Word for your and our safety and for God’s honor.
The pathway of principles of God’s Word which leads to heaven is inseparably joined to suffering. Christ Jesus preached and lived out of the principle of election and consequently died the death of the cross, because he assumed the responsibility for the sins of those whom God gave him. He was exalted in the way of suffering. The way to glory for Christ was the principles of God’s Word, which occasioned and required much suffering. So also for the apostle Paul. He lived out of the principles of the gospel and suffered for them. Suffering for righteousness sake is inseparably joined to the principles of God’s Word believed and confessed.
Therefore, we suffer in hope. We are confident that suffering is the way unto complete salvation.
Many in apostatizing churches fail or refuse to see this truth. They imagine that they can avoid suffering for righteousness sake and yet walk the pathway to glory. Remarriage of divorced persons is sanctioned, contrary to the principles of God’s Word, in order that man or woman and children involved need not suffer. To avoid suffering the loss of jobs Sabbath labor is condoned: unionism is approved; and members of the church are assured that much in the world of unbelief is commendable and consequently we need not walk strictly as pilgrims and strangers in the world. The principles of God’s Word are set aside. And they are set aside for the purpose to escape suffering, which they occasion. This is not the way to heaven. The Judaizers of Paul’s day did the same, “As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.’’ They twisted the Scriptures to avoid suffering.
But we suffer in the hope of glory. We understand that the principles of the Word of God are inseparably joined to suffering. We know that in this suffering we are partakers of Christ’s suffering, I Peter 4:13. We know too that we shall be partakers of His glory, who was raised far above all principalities and powers and set at God’s right hand.
We suffer in hope because we know that this suffering is according to God’s counsel and purpose in Christ Jesus and is given unto us in His grace. Philippians 1:29. Thus we are called upon to rejoice when we suffer for righteousness sake. “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven, for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.’’
We Suffer with the Saints
We must not view ourselves individualistically. We are not the only ones who have been and are called upon to suffer for righteousness sake. We must not develop a martyr’s complex. We must not adopt a morbid resignation to the inevitable. This is not faith.
We suffer in the knowledge of the suffering of the saints of the past. In Hebrews 11 we have recorded how the saints of the old dispensation suffered for God’s name sake. We must be mindful that today saints in other lands suffer for Christ’s sake. Remember too that the young saints upon the mission field in Singapore suffer persecution in their homes.
We suffer for our faith as witnesses unto the saints of tomorrow. Our parents have done that for us. We must be willing to bear every reproach of Christ and all hatred in order that we may give a clear and definite witness to our children.
May the Lord of glory uphold and strengthen you in this spiritual warfare for the honor of His name and the salvation of His people.
I thank you.
I. What is Idolatry?
A. Idolatry is to worship someone or something other than the one true God. (Cf. H.C. L.D. 34)
1. Who is the one true God and how do we know him?
a. His identity
1) He is Jehovah, the God of Israel in all ages.
2) He is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
3) He is our savior and our sovereign covenant friend.
4) He is the righteous judge of men and angels.
b. We know Him by His own revelation to us.
1) Jehovah has made Himself known as the Savior and Redeemer in Christ Jesus to Israel, a/ Centrally this revelation is through Christ Jesus, b/ But He has also made Himself known through His saving wonders, His works, in the Old Dispensation, c/ We, the believers, know Him through things created by Him and through His Son.
2) The Bible is the divinely inspired and, therefore, infallible record of this self-revelation.
2. The sin of idolatry is:
a. The rejection of God by the sinner.
a/ Idolatry is not something done in ignorance. Rom. 1:18-20
b/ Idolatry is not the worship of something in addition to the worship of God Jehovah. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Ye cannot serve two masters.
a/ Idolatry is the rejection of Jehovah as God and God alone,
b/ Idolatry is to worship another, someone or something, in the place of Jehovah and as God.
b. This worship of idolatry is:
1) Is not merely the overt form of idol worship as found today among pagan peoples. (Ex. Singapore)
2) Idolatrous worship is to place our trust or confidence in anything or someone other than Jehovah.
B. The sin of Idolatry in the Church of the Old Dispensation.
1. Some examples
a. The period of the judges.
1) Judges 2:10-13 (Please read)
2) The people served Baal and Ashtaroth
b. The period of the Kings.
1) Idolatry among the ten tribes occasioned by Israel’s rejection of the house of David, Christ, and the establishing of images in Dan and Bethel. (I Kings 12:25-33)
Idolatry among the ten tribes as the consequence of image worship. The worship of Baal in days of Ahab. I Kings 17-19
2) Idolatry in Judah
a/ In the days of King Manasseh 1/ II Kings 21:15-16
3) The worship of Molech and the sacrificing of the children to this god of the heathen, b/ The pervasive idolatry in Judah and the rejection of God’s prophets at the end of the Kingdom of Judah II Chron. 26:11-16.
2. What do we learn from this history of the Church in O.D.?
a. This history is for our instruction and warning.
b. We learn among other things:
1) That the church in the world is ever an apostatizing church. She is a self-corrupting church.
2) That man is by nature prone to idolatry. By nature we are idolaters.
II. The Modern Forms
A. Men today have their gods in our post Christian western culture.
1. Their identification
a. The gods of materialism
1) Men place their trust in possessions, wealth, in things.
2) Ultimate happiness, blessedness is had if one has his dream house, his limousine or sports car, or his yacht.
b. The gods of hedonism
1) The worship of self and the absolute refusal to be self-denying and self-sacrificing.
a/ One’s ease and relaxation is above all important,
b/ One’s pleasure and self-enjoyment is the goal of life.
c. The gods of the American sports world
1) The “star” and heroes of football, baseball, and basketball are the authoritative guides and examples unto today’s youth.
2)I have read and heard men speak of these sports figures as “gods,” have you?
3)Little children are told to pattern their life after this or that sports hero.
d. The gods of Scientism
1) The omniscient scientist is the great god of our day.
2) The world of science is viewed as possessing the powers to bring society to the longed-for utopia.
3) Men in the church without hesitancy accept as gospel truth every pronouncement of the scientific community.
4) Is the space program of our country a powerful means to promote the cause of the worship of the man of science? Are there other wonders to draw our attention and devotion away from God and Christ Jesus?
2. The fact that people today place their trust in these gods for salvation and blessedness.
a. This salvation and blessedness is:
1) Not the deliverance from sin and guilt before God. Our society has no consciousness of sin as sin.
2) Rather it is salvation from the effects of sin. Man will live in sin but would escape the certain, just, punishment of their sin in this life. What are the consequences of sin?
b. The gods will bring salvation if diligently served.
B. The Idolatry of false doctrine in the church today.
1. False doctrine is to present another god and another christ than the God and Christ of Scripture.
a. Manmade images of God which leads to idolatry
1) Images of the mind. Mental conceptions.
2) Images formed by false doctrine.
b. False doctrine represents departure from or corruption of Scripture as the infallible record of divine revelation.
1) Departure from Scripture is false doctrine about man, creation, God, and Christ Jesus in His person and work.
2) Thus, false doctrine is idolatry.
2. Note the joining together or association of the gods of our society and the false-Christ’s of the apostatizing church.
a. The apostatizing church and parachurch groups attempt to gain adherents to their false christ through the gods of this world.
1) Exceptionally gifted sports heroes are asked to promote Jesus to the young.
2) The rich, successful business man is used to make a case for Jesus as the one who can give you wealth and happiness.
b. Biblical Christianity is found to be at odds with 20th century science; thus, Scripture’s authoritative words must be limited to the sphere of redemption exclusively.
c. Can you explain why the apostatizing church today seeks the assistance of the gods of society to win adherents to their Christ?
1) Suggested answers:
a) Their false Christ of non-irresistible grace needs the persuasive powers of the gods of the sports world,
b) The false Christ of the apostate church needs the attractiveness and alluring powers of the gods of materialism.
c) Their false Christ is weak and unable to save by the Word.
2) Your suggested answers are?
III. Our Calling
A. To Know the Scripture whereby we are able to identify and reject the idolatrous forms of worship in our modern society.
B. To Worship God in Christ Jesus according to His Word.
1. To worship God according to the standard of His self-revelation.
2. The Purpose:
a. To God’s glory
b. To our salvation
The voice that we hear in the material below belongs to Quek Kok How, a member of the Gospel Literature and Tract Society of Singapore. He has taken the Christian name Francis, and thus signs his own work. He is twenty one years old, of Chinese descent, and has been a Christian for about eight years. We asked Kok How for permission to publish his paper in the Beacon Lights and this was readily granted. It is produced below in full and without any editing.
Our purpose in publishing this material is to let our people hear a representative voice of the G.L.T.S. Especially it is important that we become acquainted with these brethren in Singapore in light of the decision of our Synod of ’79 to send a missionary to the G.L.T.S. as they requested. We believe that the work of preaching the gospel in Singapore is your work. For the whole Church through her office bearers preaches the Word. Therefore, that you may gain some insight into this mission field, we ask you to ready this young brother’s interesting position paper.
In this document Kok How explains the necessity and the possibility of witnessing to the truth as it is in Jesus Christ. This article was prepared in the spring of 1978, after Rev. Slopsema and Elder D. Engelsma had completed their work of preaching and teaching as our emissaries to Singapore. There was considerable opposition within the G.L.T.S. to the Reformed emphasis and direction which this group of youthful believers had now taken Some within the G.L.T.S. charged that a commitment to the Reformed faith, especially the Tulip doctrines, made it impossible to witness to others. Kok How felt duty bound to write this position paper in an attempt to strengthen his brothers and sisters of the G.L.T.S. in the Reformed faith.
The theme of our convention speeches is expressed in the words of the apostle Paul: “Redeeming the time.” We should note briefly the use of the concept time in this epistle to the Ephesians by the apostle. In the first chapter of this letter the apostle speaks of eternity in contrast to time. This contrast is foundational and of extreme importance for the understanding of this epistle. Paul speaks of the believer’s predestination, of his election, according to God’s good pleasure and that this act of God was before the foundation of the world. Before time God predestinated. Secondly, the apostle writes of the realities of the Ephesians’ salvation in the sphere of time. From the historic moment when the letter was written. Paul speaks of a past time. The Ephesian Christians had been dead in sins (Eph. 21-3), they had been without Christ and without God in the world (Eph. 2:12-13). The present moment for the Ephesian Christians must be viewed in the light of what had been the past time and in the light of the eternity of God. For they are now blessed with all the heavenly blessings (Eph. 1:3-4), they are now the children of God by adoption (Eph. 1:5), they are now God’s workmanship in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:10), and finally, they are now the temple of God Himself who dwells in them by His Spirit (Eph. 2:20-22).
The Ephesian Christians, therefore, were faced with the responsibility to carefully examine their walk in order that as God’s wise children they would be redeeming the time!
All this has a significance for us. Who are we from an external view point? Obviously, we are a goodly number of the young people of our Protestant Reformed Churches. We have believing parents. We, as do many other young people, have hopes and dreams of possessing powerful cars, of gaining a particular boyfriend or girlfriend, of gaining a specific degree in education, and we hope and dream with respect to many other aspects of the future time. These hopes and dreams are perfectly natural and unavoidable. But who are we from a spiritual viewpoint? We are children of Jehovah God. We are the temple of God. We are the workmanship of God in Christ. We are believers by God’s sovereign grace and according to His purpose of election.
Consequently, the host society reminds us of our calling to be walking as wise children of God, who are redeeming the time. We thank them for this timely reminder.
What is our calling, then, according to the text: “See then, that ye walk circumspectly not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil”? We should note that there is only one imperative in our test. The imperative is not to redeem the time. Though in itself this is a permissible idea. But it is not the text. Nor does the text command us to be wise, which is, of course, also a proper admonition; but it is not the text.
The specific command to the believer is expressed in the words of verse fifteen of this chapter, “See then.” By this expression the apostle commands us to “look closely”, or “examine carefully”, bow we are walking. We are called to a constant spiritual self-examination. How do I walk? Do I walk as the unwise unbeliever or as a wise child of God? The apostle’s’ command that we examine ourselves presupposes that we are spiritually sensitive children before God. For the close scrutiny of our walk stands opposed to all indifference, apathy, and disregard of God and His Word. Our present walk refers to our inward life of heart and mind as well as to our outward conduct. How are we walking? Are we the wise children of God and, therefore, those who are redeeming the time?
Why does the apostle place this demand of self-examination before us? The answer: he would have us as wise children of God redeem the time. It is possible for us to redeem the time and in this way to use it to God’s glory and honor. For we are no longer under the domination of the devil, the Prince of the power of the air. We have been enabled to serve our God by virtue of the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. Since we are children of God it is in our capacity and it is our calling to walk as wise children redeeming the time.
If one is wise he is able to employ the best means to the attainment of his purpose. What is the one great purpose of our lives? It is the glory and honor of our great God and Savior. In wisdom then we must employ the means unto that end. The apostle reminds us that the one all inclusive means that we are to employ unto the attainment of this great purpose is -time. We are to redeem the time unto the attainment of the ultimate purpose of our salvation, which is the glory of God’s name.
The obvious implication is that our use of time is to be radically different from that of the unbeliever, the unwise. The unbeliever uses time as an unbeliever unto the attainment of his wicked self-seeking purpose. The believer redeems time as a believer and, therefore, not for self but for the glory of Jehovah, his God.
What is then the character of the activity of one who is obedient to this command of the apostle that we carefully examine our daily walk? The character of that activity is that described in our text as “redeeming the time”.
What is time? What is this thing we are to redeem? Time is a creature of God; God alone is eternal. God stands above time and is not subject to its power and movement. Time is God’s servant. Further, time moves. Time is progress and it never stands still, not even for a moment. Time in its ceaseless march forward cannot be stopped. Time is irrevocable. The opportunities of the past time cannot be called back. Whatever was done cannot be undone. Time in a broader sense is the mighty bearer of all the circumstances of our lives. Time brings to us the particular realities of the day or night, of our youth or old age, of sickness or health, of poverty or wealth, of loneliness or fellowship, of sorrow or happiness. Time is the mighty bearer of all things good or bad. Finally, therefore, time is a mighty ruler and law. Time dominates our lives. It pulls us along down through the years and decades of our lives. Time rules. The time and its circumstances are not our making.
But time can be and must be redeemed by us. Literally the term redeeming means to purchase, to buy. Through this purchasing of time we make it our own possession. In our text the word time is in the singular. Therefore the moment of the present is to be purchased by us. Every moment of our lives is to be redeemed. We are not to procrastinate and take the attitude that we will purchase some future moment. No, now and each day of our lives we are to be redeeming the time. Every moment of the continuous present is to be purchased.
Time is valuable. This is presupposed. We purchase that which is valuable to us. Time is valuable from the viewpoint, first of all, that it is given to the believer in God’s grace as the means to be employed to His glory. Secondly, time is valuable because it is replete with opportunities to serve God as wise children.
If something is purchased we have to pay a price. The price required of us to redeem time is the high price of self-denial. When we put off the old man and put on the new man we are paying the price of redeeming the time. Our reaction by nature to this price is that it is far too high a price to pay. We do not always want to redeem the time. We often would walk as the unwise unbeliever. Therefore, the command of the apostle is that we look carefully to see how we are walking, as the wise or as the unwise.
When are we to be redeeming the time? The host society for this convention reminds us that we are to do that in an age of ignorance. Question. Of what are the people of this modern age ignorant? Is our society ignorant of history in general; in our age is science and its application to our lives without development, is there an ignorance of technology? With respect to what can it be said that we live in an age of ignorance? Do we not live in the age of the explosion of knowledge! The history of mankind and of nations and their development is well known. Modem man is very knowledgeable about the physical wonders of our universe. We live in the age of fantastic discoveries in space exploration, space technology, and geology, in the fields of medicine and of industry. Modem man is rapidly discovering and harnessing the powers of the material world to serve himself. From this viewpoint, therefore, we cannot speak of an age of ignorance. No, from this view point it is the age of brilliance and the rapid expansion of knowledge.
However, our age is none the less grossly ignorant of the one important reality of time. In our age men are ignorant of God’s Word! The Bible is not known to our society. Even in the church world today many, many church goers do not know the simple facts recorded in the Old and New Testaments. Much less even is the meaning and significance of the revelation of God in Christ Jesus known. People are not familiar with God’s Word. Our age is ignorant of that which is above all important.
Even in many conservative churches so-called the people are ignorant of the overall theme of Scripture. This theme is the truth of Christ crucified for the elect people of God, with whom, on the basis of Christ’s shed blood, God established the covenant of friendship with His own. Reformed people are ignorant of this central theme of Scripture. To be ignorant of this central theme is no little matter. It ought not to be minimized. Especially is this true with respect to those who call themselves Reformed believers. To be ignorant of this central theme of Scripture is to be ignorant of the heart of the gospel. Ignorance of the Word of God in our age and in the Church world in general and in the Reformed church world in particular is not merely the fruit of neglect. This ignorance is the fruit of apostasy. Rejection of the truth is the fountain head of this ignorance. Fathers and mothers have rejected the truth and, consequently, have refused to teach it or have it taught to their children. The fruit of rejection then is what? Whole generations of children and again their children have arisen who are grossly ignorant of the very heart of the gospel. It is the ignorance which is the fruit of a wicked departure. The candlestick of light and truth is being withdrawn from an apostatizing church world. This withdrawing activity is the work of God in judgment against the apostatizing churches of our land and world. It is an age of evil.
The days are evil! They are days of rejection, apostasy, and thus of ignorance of God’s Word.
How about ourselves? Are we ignorant of the Reformed truth? Are we ignorant of the heart of the gospel? Do we know and believe that truth of God that Christ Jesus was crucified for the guilty elect sinner, with whom, on the basis of Christ’s shed blood, God has established His covenant of friendship through the way of repentance and faith? Do we know it? I believe that you know this truth. You are not ignorant of it. That you know it is of God’s grace and goodness to us in our generations. We may not boast. It is of God we humbly and thankfully acknowledge.
Oh, I know that you are not theologians whose minds are filled with proof texts re the articles of faith. But you know the truth for yourself. How can I be so sure that you know God’s Word and that you are blessed by the knowledge of it? Because our parents have been redeeming the time. In the church, in the home, and in the school your parents have been using every opportunity to teach you the truth of God’s Word. They have used the time of our youth to prepare us to be the church of tomorrow! This was their calling before God. I believe that God has richly blessed that covenantal training in our churches. All thanks and praise to Him alone. Our parents did not cast away the central theme of Scripture, but they pressed it to their and our hearts. They lived out of it and caused us to grow up in the confession of this wonderful truth of God’s Word.
Ignorant of God’s Word and its central message cannot ever be true of us who are here today. It is possible that some of the youth of our churches in wickedness reject this truth and forsake it. But ignorant of it they can never be. However, our children and their children will be ignorant of it unless we do as did our fathers. We too must be redeeming the time in an age of willful ignorance.
What then specifically must be the content of our activity in redeeming the time? How do we redeem it? Our redeeming the time must take the form of gaining knowledge. Especially is this important in the moment, of the time of our youth. Youth is the time of preparation. The whole of life and its awesome responsibilities lie before you. Prepare! Gain knowledge!
In general we ought to gain a well-rounded training in the Christian high school and Christian college. I believe this to be more and more important for our youth. But above all and by all means must we be students of God’s Word. We must study the whole of the infallible Bible in the light of Christ crucified for His own. We must then let the light of this glorious gospel cast its illuminating rays upon our path in these days that are evil with the darkness of apostasy.
The benefit will be great for our churches and for others even to distant lands and islands of the sea. We must know the truth of God’s Word, defend it, preach it, and live it with all our hearts. We must strive to be fit instruments of God unto the gathering and preservation of His Church. Gain knowledge! The benefit of a thorough knowledge of God’s Word for us individually is that we will develop a firm conviction of the truth and an abiding assurance of God’s love and favor upon us in Christ Jesus. We grow in grace through growth in knowledge.
How? How can we redeem the time? How can we gain knowledge in this age of ignorance? Remember, God still favors us with the pure preaching of His Word. Use diligently the means of grace given us by God through the means of the Church. We must be attentive under the preaching of the word of the Cross. We must be faithful in preparation and in participation in our catechism classes. We gain knowledge of God’s Word through the efforts of our young people societies. Personal Bible study! Leave your T.V. off and turn off the godless music on the radio. You will not learn God’s Word from these sources. We are to redeem the time by contemplating and meditating upon God’s Word and Work in Jesus Christ. Doing this we are then walking as wise children of God redeeming the time.
Examine carefully how you are walking.
Are you a faithful disciple of our Lord? Is it possible to be faithful and only be a disciple outwardly? Is discipleship related to the whole matter of one’s church membership? Is church reformation only possible where men and women of faith clearly perceive the meaning and requirements of a disciple of Christ? Is faithfulness to biblical doctrine important to a conscientious disciple or immaterial. Are the precepts which Christ taught His people through the apostles and prophets of the Old and New Testaments still governing principles for the lives of His disciples today?
What does it mean to be a disciple of Christ? What is discipleship? In the great mission mandate to the Church, Jesus said: “Go, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father…” The term translated in the text “teach” can also be translated “to make disciples.” Through the process of teaching various spiritual disciplines the Church would make disciples of all nations.
Exactly what were the apostles to teach? What was to be the contents of the various spiritual disciplines to which the nations would be exposed? Jesus defines the content of this instruction by adding: “Teach them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you…” (Matthew 28:20) The term ’’disciple” is by itself a purely formal term. The heathen and pagan religious teachers have their disciples. Modernists teachers have their disciples. The term disciple, therefore, is something like the term “religious”. Everyone is religious; but the content of one’s discipleship and religion varies from one to another. Therefore, Christ commanded His Church to teach all nations “to observe whatsoever I have commanded you.”
We believe that the Bible is a revelation of our covenant God and Father through Christ Jesus. The infallible inspired Word must be and is the content of all the teaching and preaching whereby Christ would make disciples. The Scriptures are the “Things” which Christ commanded us to observe. Therefore, the Word of God alone must be the content of our teaching that it may be personally appropriated by the disciples of Christ Jesus.
What specifically, then, does it mean to be a disciple of our Lord? Many times we think of a disciple as a follower. This is a true conception, but we would warn against all superficial thinking in this regard. A disciple of Christ is not a mindless follower or mere traditionalist. A disciple faithful to Christ is one who follows His specific precepts and doctrines or teachings. A faithful disciple is one whose life is governed by these precepts and doctrines. These precepts and doctrines of Christ rule the disciple’s will, guide his thinking, direct his feet. The Master rules and directs His followers through the Word!
Nothing less is discipleship before Christ. Mere traditionalism is not discipleship, nor is outward religious formalism with its spiritually destruction rituals and ostentatious ceremonies. The Word of God must be preached and lived in every sphere of life. God’s people often forget this truth. Before God’s people realize what is happening to them the institution of the Church often has substituted for the lively preaching of the Word mere formalism of rituals and ceremonies. Knowledge of the Word is gradually lost and many rejoice to have it so. The result? Sensitivity to one’s sin is lost, all fear of hell is gone, and the way of sanctification or holy living in dedication and consecration to Jehovah God is abandoned for the roads of worldly mindedness.
But a faithful disciple lives out of the Word. He keeps or observes all things whatsoever Christ commanded. (Matthew 28:20) This implies, of course, that a disciple knows the Word. To be a disciple of Christ is to be a student of the Word. A faithful disciple carefully listens to the Word. He is not judge who proudly exalts himself above the word, but he submits to the Word in childlike humility.
We should note that discipleship is an exclusive relationship. That fact should be readily apparent when we note the words that qualify the expression disciple. One is a disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ. A believer is not a disciple of Christ and the philosophers and false prophets of our day. He is a disciple of Christ alone. He heeds the Word of God alone. To be a disciple of Christ is to be exclusively committed to Him and His Word. If one is a disciple of Christ he follows Christ at all times. In John 10:5 the word of Christ concerning the faithful exclusive comment of His own is found. Jesus said: “And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him:” A disciple of Christ does not follow those who fail to bring the Master’s Words. Rather a disciple of Christ will flee from those who bring the lie instead of the truth, false doctrine rather than the truth of the Word, stones instead of bread. The disciple clings to Christ and to His Word alone.
The exclusive character of the relationship of a disciple to Christ is rooted in the reality of love. A disciple not only knows Christ but he loves Him and His Father. Love is an exclusive relationship. The love of Christ and His Word does not permit the love of this world nor the things of this world. (I John 2:15) This love relationship between the Master and His disciples is a bond of fellowship in righteousness. In that bond of fellowship not only does Christ seek His redeemed people, but His redeemed people seek Him and find their joy and delight in His service and fellowship.
In this connection it would be good to point out the great importance of biblical doctrine to a disciple of Christ. Many so-called Christians today have little use for doctrine. The moment one begins to speak of “doctrine’ people “tune out.” Doctrine is repulsive to many and despised as unnecessary for a loving relationship with Jesus. But, we ask, can one be a disciple of Christ without a strong commitment to doctrine? Further, can one even know Christ and God our Father apart from doctrine? Obviously not! Discipleship implies the appropriation of doctrine. The doctrines of the Trinity, of Christ’s deity, the doctrines of redemption and atonement, justification, sanctification and of the creation and fall of mankind are all inseparably related to the relationship of discipleship in Christ Jesus. Only the truth leads to the knowledge of Jesus Christ. The lie always obscures Christ and precludes fellowship with Him. A disciple flees from false doctrine brought by strangers. But the disciple holds fast that which is good and called in Scripture “sound doctrine.” (I Thessalonians 5:21 and Titus 2:1)
The Church of our day must once again learn to do what the saints of Berea did when Paul and Silas preached in that city on their second missionary journey. We read of these disciples in Berea that they “received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. (Acts 17:11) The Word, doctrine, and truth were important to these saints of Berea; today, many account biblical doctrine of little or no importance. Besides in Berea the preaching of the great apostle Paul was subjected to an examination of its faithfulness in the light of scripture: but today many account this examination unnecessary and as possibly offensive to the preacher. But by what other measure will the disciple of Christ distinguish Christ’s voice from that of strangers? (John 10:5)
Doctrine is very important to a disciple’s life is governed by the Word. Through this Word Christ, The Master, dictates legal requirements for our walk in the world. What we are to confess is taught us in the Word. Disciples cling to the doctrine of the Word and through them to Christ. It ca not be any other way, for apart from the doctrines of the Word we cannot know the Christ whom the Scriptures declare. Unless the Church would lose itself in subjectivism and mysticism she must demand that the pulpit bring the Word alone.
Discipleship in Christ is difficult! Many picture the Christian life as free of all tension, trouble, struggle, fighting and disappointments; instead the life of a disciple is supposedly only happiness, joy and roses. But this view of the life of a disciple is not true. The Bible teaches that the disciple of Christ must expect trouble, persecution, a great spiritual battle, and affliction. The Bible teaches that the believer must fight against the old man of sin in himself and crucify his own sinful nature. True discipleship is contrary to our flesh. Further, the disciples of Christ as children of light are always opposed by those who are children of darkness. Scripture warns the disciples of Christ that we must put on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:11) If there was no battle against the forces of sin, why then the armor? Disciples are called daily to a spiritual battle. Besides our Master warned that ever as he was hated by wicked men even so would His disciples be hated and despised by the world. We should remember that he who refused to bear the scorn of the apostatizing church and the hatred of the world is unfaithful to Christ.
This truth is not meant to deny that the Christian also experiences happiness, blessedness and the joy of his salvation. But the attainment of the later is only through the way of obedience to the former. The disciples of Christ only enjoy this blessed fellowship with Him in and through the spiritual struggle against the lie and sin. Disciples are soldiers of Christ’s cross, as he was scorned so we. The life of faithful obedience to God’s Word is the life of victory.
“Then said Jesus unto the Jews which believed in Him, If we continue in my work, then are ye my disciples indeed and ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.’’ (John 8:31 & 32)
“I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” John 10:11
In this passage from the gospel of John, Jesus is addressing the Jews and is stressing the truth that He is the Messiah. The promised Messiah had come and this is He, Jesus of Nazareth. As the Messiah Jesus was, of course, the Good Shepherd, who was to give His life for the sheep. Jesus preached the significance for His sheep of His death and resurrection. This Jesus of Nazareth had the power to lay down His life freely and the power to raise it up again. Besides, He gives to His sheep life eternal and they shall never perish.
Many of the Jews said: “He hath a devil, and is mad, why hear ye him.” But the sheep know Jesus’ voice and follow Him. Devils cannot open the eyes of the blind.
What is meant by the figurative term “good shepherd?” The work of a shepherd was common knowledge to the Jews of Jesus’ day. The shepherd’s duty was to lead the sheep to the green pastures and streams of water. He had to feed and care for the sheep day and night. In the context Jesus stresses above all the duty of a shepherd to protect and guard the sheep from every danger. Lions, bears, puma, or wolves at times would attack the sheep and it was the shepherd’s duty to protect the flock from these wild beasts.
The hireling fleeth because he is an hireling and careth not for the sheep. He is an hireling. The sheep do not belong to him. Therefore, concerned only for his own safety, he flees and as a result the sheep are scattered and destroyed.
But Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He will not flee, but, he tells the Jews, I lay down my life for the sheep.
This is figurative language. In reality the sheep are the people of God and as one flock they are the Church of Christ chosen in Christ from eternity. You and I are the sheep. The repentant believer is a member of the flock of Christ, our Good Shepherd.
The Good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep I Why? Because the danger of death threatened the sheep. There was a great enemy who threatened the people of God. What specifically was that danger that threatened the sheep and which Christ saw and knew that in order to remove that danger He must lay down His life for the sheep? The answer: the guilt of our sin and iniquity. Our guilt in Adam and the guilt incurred by our daily sins made us worthy of eternal damnation in hell. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way.
That impending danger, as a roaring lion, the Good Shepherd foresaw and knew that the certain destruction of the flock could be prevented only by the Shepherd’s death. “I lay down my life for the sheep.”
Vicarious atonement! To make atonement is to satisfy the justice of God for all our sin and guilt. Christ by His atoning death not only removed all our guilt but He also merited for us righteousness. That atonement was vicarious. It was the laying down of One’s life for others. The word “vicarious” means substitutional. Jesus died for the sheep. Christ died on behalf of those given Him by the Father and, therefore, He died in their stead. Jesus took and God laid upon Him the iniquity of us all. Jesus death satisfied the justice of God for some sinners…the sheep.
When Jesus saw the danger of death that threatened the flock, why did He not flee? Why did not Jesus flee to Galilee from the garden of Gethsemane? Why did He not come down from the cross? Why not flee the billows of God’s eternal wrath against our sin and guilt?
There is a blessed answer to those questions. The sheep belonged to Jesus… He was not a hireling. Further, Jesus loved His own even unto death! (John 13:1) No one else could defend the sheep for Jesus alone is Jehovah salvation. Jesus alone is the revelation of God’s covenant faithfulness and love. Jesus alone had the power to sustain the burden of God’s wrath against our sin and guilt and to bear it all away. Jesus alone was the Son of God sent of our Father to be made sin for us. The Messiah.
Could the Christ have fled? Absurd! He came determined to defend the sheep.
We should not overlook the fact that Christ by His death removed the danger that threatened the sheep. The flock is safe and secure. The wolf hath been destroyed. You must not say, as do some foolish preachers, that the sheep are still in danger of hell fire. You must not think that the sheep can still be devoured by the guilt of their sin. They have forgiveness. You must not think that even though Christ has died that, nevertheless, the guilt of sin still threatens the flock of Christ. You must never believe, as some would have us believe, that some for whom Christ died go to hell after all. God Forbid! To teach that nonsense is to deny that Jesus is a complete Savior, (Heidelberg Catechism; Lord’s Day 11), and to cast aspersions upon the infinite value of the blood of Christ. Rather God’s people are objectively justified! Righteous they are before the Judge of heaven and earth. Our God beholds no iniquity in Jacob. Our God accounts the sheep as worthy of everlasting life, for Jesus merited for them righteousness and the right unto everlasting life. The elect of God are objectively justified on the basis of the atoning death of the Good Shepherd, which blessed fact has been publicly declared as the incontestable truth by God in the resurrecting of Christ from the dead.
The sheep have been protected and kept safe through the loving faithfulness of the Good Shepherd, who died in order that the sheep may have life and have it more abundantly.
Note too, that Jesus had said: I am the Good Shepherd. Jesus did not say I will be, or I will become, or I would like to be, or I will try to be the Good Shepherd. No, I am the Good Shepherd. Jesus is stating what was always His position with respect to the sheep. How many sheep did Jesus have at the time these words were spoken. Outwardly considered, he did not have very many. The twelve disciples could be mentioned, but one of them was a devil. That leaves eleven and the fact is that later they too forsook Him and fled leaving Christ to stand alone rejected of men! But outward appearances are deceiving! Jesus had at this time many hundreds of thousands and even millions of sheep. As innumerable as the sand upon the sea shore were the members of His flock. Some of which were the saints of the old dispensation, who were already in glory through faith in the promised blood typified in the blood of animals. Some of the sheep were those who were his disciples of that day. Many millions at that time were not yet born but would be gathered through the preaching of the gospel throughout the new dispensation. However, the point is Jesus had His sheep.
Or is it possible to be a shepherd without possessing sheep to shepherdize? If as Jesus claimed He was the Shepherd then He had His Sheep. Can one be a pilot with possessing a plane to fly? Can one be a jockey if he has no horse to ride? So also with the Good Shepherd. The elect of God were the sheep of Jesus flock. Jesus was the Good Shepherd when he was twelve years old debating with the elders of the people. Jesus was the Good Shepherd when as an infant He was taken up into aged Simeon’s arms “as the glory of thy people Israel” He was the Good Shepherd already when conceived in His mother’s womb as the one to whom God would give the throne of His father David. Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, is the Good Shepherd from all eternity. The care and protection of the sheep, the chosen people of God, was the responsibility of the Word become flesh. Forget not, His name is Jesus, that is, Jehovah Salvation!
Jesus of Nazareth is our Good Shepherd, who beheld from eternity as the Son of God, the danger of death that threatened His Sheep. Jesus, therefore, had come to do His Father’s will, which was that the Son of God should lay down His life in our flesh for our redemption.
Blessed words: I am the Good Shepherd.
“And other sheep I have which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.”
“…The Son of God from the beginning to the end of the world gathers, defends, and preserves to himself by his Spirit and word, out of the whole human race, a church chosen to everlasting life, agreeing in true faith; and …I am and forever shall remain a living member thereof.”
Luke 23:44 “And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.”
That darkness was the speech of God at the cross. God’s voice prevailed over the land for three long hours. That speech of God was devoid of love and grace. It was God’s speech of wrath and judgment.
Often times when we consider anew the events of the cross, we contemplate the speech of mere men. Pilate and Herod “examined” the Christ. Neither of them found any fault in Him worthy of death. Annas and Caiaphas “tried” Him before the seventy elders, and found Jesus guilty of blasphemy because He claimed to be the Son of God. The Jews, upon the instigation of the Sanhedrin, cried out away with Him and crucify Him. They desired that the murderer Barabbas be released to them rather than the Prince of Life. Some slapped Jesus’ face. Others platted a crown of thorns upon His head. They mockingly robed Him in purple. Pilate and the soldiers scourged the Christ. The soldiers following Pilate’s orders drove the spikes through His hands and feet. All this we often contemplate. The deeds and words of wicked men captivate our attention.
All men it seemed scorned, ridiculed, and mocked the Christ. Contempt and hatred toward Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews reigned in the hearts of men.
But Jesus was silent. Many times, He had declared openly His identity in the temple and now there was no need to do so again. To Herod’s many questions Jesus “answered him nothing.” Before Pilate, only a few words were spoken. Jesus the Christ is “brought as a lamb to the slaughter and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth.”
Not one word fell from Jesus’ lips to express the horrible injustice of it all. No bitterness, no rebellion, no hatred. Only silence. The Son of God, the Lord out of heaven, was silent before His accusers, judges, and crucifiers. Would not God in heaven speak. God had spoken in the past audibly addressing men: “This is my beloved son…” But at the cross was there no speech of God Almighty?
God spoke indeed: for three long hours darkness covered the land and engulfed the cross. That darkness was the speech of God. Men had to listen in silence to this word of God concerning God’s wrath and hell.
What specifically happened? Luke tells us that from the sixth hour till the ninth hour darkness covered the land. The sixth hour according to the Jewish reckoning of time would be noon day, twelve o’clock. How unusual that darkness should cover the land, for especially in the sun scorched land of Canaan one would expect the brightness of the blasting sun shining forth out of a cloudless sky. No one expects darkness at midday. This darkness prevailed for three hours.
That was not an ordinary darkness of the night. In an ordinary night, we have the light of the moon and stars. Some nights the moon and stars give so much light, that we can speak of the brightness of the night. But the darkness at Calvary was different from anything the Jews had ever experienced. It was a thick, gloomy darkness which terrifyingly precluded movement. Maybe the darkness of the inner caverns of a cave approximate the darkness that surrounded the cross. Undoubtedly, one could not see any longer the cross and the object of his scorn. The darkness removed their neighbors from sight. The hand raised close to the eyes was undoubtedly indistinguishable.
Nor do we doubt for a moment that this darkness had a profound affect upon the multitude gathered about the foot of the cross. The mouths of those who defiantly mocked and ridiculed and taunted the King were silenced. This darkness was so thick and oppressive that the Jews were not only silent, but they in all probability shivered in terror. The darkness of hell was upon them.
This darkness also silenced the Christ. From the third to the sixth hour, Jesus spoke the first three cross words. But during the darkness Jesus cried out only once. During the three hours of darkness, there could be heard no doubt the shuffling of feet among the multitude and also the groaning of the dying malefactors; but nothing else could be heard till the piercing cry of despair burst forth from the heart and lips of the forsaken Son: My God… Why …me?
The significance of this darkness is two-fold. First of all, by causing this darkness to descend upon Golgotha, our God hath shown to all that the cross is His cross and not man’s. It had seemed as though the cross of Christ was completely in man’s control. Apparently, men ruled. Had not mere men captured the Christ, having bribed the betrayer and plotted Jesus’ capture.
Men had Jesus in their power. Had they not buffeted, spat upon Him, scourged Him, and finally condemned Him and all this apparently with impunity. No one was apparently able to stop the execution of their murderous plan. Even Simon the Cyrenian was forced into the act. Men ruled. For the three hours before the darkness engulfed the cross, men with wicked sneers enjoyed the sight of their helpless victim. Jesus could save others, Himself He could not save. Jesus was in their power. His life’s blood was slowly escaping from Him as men watched and jeered the suffering Nazarene. Man and the Devil had all things the way they had wanted it. Wicked apostate men held dominion over the hill of Golgotha.
So it seemed.
But the cross and all the events surrounding it were completely in God’s control. Prophecy had foretold the betrayal. Jesus Himself had spoken earlier of His death on the cross and of being lifted up even as Moses had lifted up the serpent in the wilderness. Death upon the cross had been accursed of God. Was not Jesus known from the beginning of His ministry as the Lamb of God? Do we not read in Revelations 13:8 that Jesus is the lamb slain from before the foundation of the world? God had willed the death of His Son in our flesh eternally. The seed of the woman must crush the head of the serpent. Had not Isaiah and King David, as prophets of God, declared what would transpire according to the counsel of our God. (Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22) The cross was God’s, who delivered the Christ unto death according to His determinate counsel and foreknowledge.
Not men ruled at Golgotha; but God alone and sovereignly over and in the lives of men.
The descending darkness made that fact crystal clear even to the spiritually blind. Before the darkness, the soldiers, the Sanhedrin, the Jews, and the people that passed by, jeered and wagged their heads in scorn. Proud and wicked men deriding the Christ triumphantly cried out: “He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ the chosen of God.” But the darkness revealed that the cross belonged to God and not men. God sovereignly ruled and by this miraculous act men were silenced and as it were set aside by the hand of God.
Secondly, the significance of the darkness is that it symbolically spoke of God’s wrath. His wrath over against sin and guilt. The light of God’s favor and grace was removed from Calvary.
With whom was the God of heaven angry? Undoubtedly, God’s wrath was kindled against the members of the Sanhedrin, who willingly had been the tools of Satan in this ungodly deed. To those who were impenitent the remembrance of that afternoon must ever have spoken of the wrath of God. It was for the ungodly a foretaste of hell.
But first of all and chiefly, God’s wrath was not directed toward mere sinful men; but God’s wrath was toward the Christ, Jesus. However, this wrath was not directed towards Christ for any sin He had committed for our High priest was holy, harmless, and undefiled, separate from sinners. But the Christ had taken upon Himself your and my sins and guilt and that of all His elect people. Therefore, as the legal Head of the Church He was the sinner guilty before our Holy God.
We must not overlook the fact that this darkness symbolically pictured the just visitation of God’s wrath as it shall be poured out in hell eternally. In Matthew 8:12 we read: “But the children of the Kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” The impenitent Jews would be cast into hell. So also, hell and all it represents as the place of everlasting punishment of the guilty sinner is pictured to us as the blackness of darkness in Jude verse 13 and II Peter 2:17.
Christ descended into the depths of hellish agony during the three hours of darkness. During those three hours, the billows of God’s just wrath swept over His soul.
For whom? For those whom the Father had inseparably joined to Him according to His eternal and sovereign purpose of election. The shepherd died for His sheep. In Him they have redemption and the right unto everlasting life.
Historically, the darkness gradually was removed. Atonement had been made and Christ was no longer engulfed in darkness. Triumphantly, Christ cried out: “It is finished!” And: “Father into thy hands I commend my spirit.”
Jesus’ spirit was placed in the loving Father’s hands in order that Christ Jesus, who had redeemed us by His death, may also surely save us by His life.
Repentant believer, upon you shines the sun of righteousness … forever.
“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.” -Matthew 10:34
The essence of Christmas is Immanuel. Christmas as an historical event can, of course, never be repeated. Mary and Joseph went to the city of David nearly two thousand years ago and there Mary was delivered of the holy child, Jesus, the Christ, was born. The prophesied Prince of Peace had come and His birth was announced by the host of heaven and the one brilliant star that appeared, disappeared and reappeared. The historical event can never be repeated as event for the unique historical situations need never be repeated.
But Christmas can be preached and is preached throughout the ages. The Christ of glory declares the essence, meaning and purpose of His birth, His coming, through preaching of the gospel of peace. We rejoice in His birth because He is ever with us. His birth is meaningless, if His promise is not true; “lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”
Thus, how must we view the words of Matthew 10:34. Note that, in the first place, Jesus forbids His disciples to “think” that He had come to send peace. Secondly, Jesus assures the disciples that the purpose of Christmas is that He is come to send a sword. Strange words spoken by the Prince of Peace. Paradoxical? Only apparently so!
Jesus is certainly the Prince of Peace throughout history and all eternity. Jesus sends and brings peace to His own by the power of His Spirit and on the basis of the power of His atoning blood. He carried away all the wrath of God towards His own. All the elect, the Church, which had been given to Jesus, the Christ, from eternity, are the ungodly whom God declares justified on the basis of the shed blood of the Head of the Church. Therefore, being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Abiding peace…for the Church in the world of sin and throughout all eternity.
But there is another kind of “peace”. Of this other peace Jesus is speaking in Mt. 10:34. Earthly peace it might be called. It would be the result of the removal of all hatred, strife and war from among men and nations. Man is at war with himself, for he is an enemy of God and his neighbor. The natural man and all humanity is ethically one; humanity is corrupt, depraved, dead in sin. This ethical oneness of humanity occasions and causes and manifests itself in hatred, bitterness and strife among men.
Jesus has not come to send peace on the earth. Not an earthly peace. He has come to send division and the sword.
From the context of Mt. 10:34 it is plain why Jesus spoke these words. He had just commissioned His disciples to preach the gospel to the lost sheep of Israel. The disciples had entertained the idea of the establishment of an earthly Kingdom of peace, with Jesus as King. The disciples envisioned a glorious Kingdom exceeding even the glory of Solomon’s kingdom. For the King, Jesus, had power to heal the sick, to cast out devils, feed thousands with just a few loaves of bread. The disciples were more than eager to go out and declare the gospel of physical amelioration, their social gospel. But when Christ warned them that their preaching of His gospel might occasion their death, the disciples were undoubtedly mystified. Thus Jesus says: Think not! He understood their perplexity. The disciples had figured that Jesus came to establish an earthly kingdom of earthly peace, which all men everywhere would gladly rejoice in and, therefore, not be offended by their preaching. Thus Jesus attempted to remove their misunderstanding by warning “that I am not come to send peace on earth…but a sword.
Not peace, but a sword I am come to send. What did Jesus mean with this term “sword.” The sword is used symbolically for tension, strife and war. Jesus had come to send division. (Luke 12:51) Christmas brings the everlasting division between men. There are in every age those forces that stand in opposition expressed by the terms: faith and unbelief, obedience and disobedience, the lie and the truth, light and darkness, Christ and anti-christ, Christian and anti-christian. This division is always a spiritual warfare. This spiritual warfare is between the true Church and the false church, believer and unbeliever in any particular family, and between the old and new man within the one saint.
This struggle is life long and throughout all ages to the end of time. Never will there be an earthly peace and a kingdom of Christ of this world. Many desire it. Most preach it. But they who preach a Kingdom of Christ of this world, or a social gospel, must of necessity experience disillusionment and frustration. Total disillusionment comes “when” every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him.” Not their purpose, but His is ever accomplished.
This struggle throughout the ages is the evidence that God has in grace caused the seed of the woman to hate the Devil, the lie, and sin on the one hand, and on the other to love Him, the truth, and the Christ. In the beginning, after the fall, the first declaration of the gospel takes the form of God’s act of “putting enmity” between two seeds. Christ came to bring that division among men. Whenever and wherever Christmas is preached, there division results. This dark side of Christmas is the shadow that is inseparably joined to Christ’s work as the Savior of humanity, the elect Church.
The disciples had to learn this. The disciples were called as Christ’s heralds to serve this purpose of the Sender Peter and John s.mn learned this after Pentecost for “they had called the apostles and beaten them.” (Acts 5:40) Paul must have learned this when he was left for dead after having been stoned in the streets of Lystra. Remember the beautiful sermon Stephen preached.
This lesson we must learn.
Every preacher of the gospel must willingly, through his preaching serve “the sending of the sword” tor this is the purpose of Christ’s coming, Christmas. It is the Church’s calling to be submissive to the King who came to send division. Preaching that leads to a compromise of the truth and to peace with the unbeliever is a gross disservice to Christ.
Why does the preaching of the gospel of the Christ bring division? Because through Sovereign grace, only some persons according to God’s purpose of election are drawn out of the ethical corruption, depravity and death: and drawn into the fellowship of God in Christ. Only some are so blessed. Those whom God is not pleased to draw into the light and the fellowship of Christ are left in their sin and corruption which death they love. Therefore, the result of Christ’s work is spiritual warfare between two peoples: Ables and Cains. Jacobs and Esaus; faith and unbelief which is a reflection of God’s election and reprobation.
The nominal church is troubled by his teaching of Christ…I am come to send a sword. The apostatizing church would attempt to explain this truth away. But Christ’s purpose cannot be denied Him nor undone, for He is the living Lord to whom all power and glory hath been given. His purpose is ever accomplished. Tension, strife, and war follow the footsteps of the Christ as He goes forth in all ages declaring the purpose of His coming…of Christmas. Church history testifies to the truth of Christ’s teaching. In the world ye will have tribulation. The servant is not greater than his Master. Even as they hated the Christ, they will hate and persecute the Master’s brethren. Christ’s preaching occasioned His death. Our preaching occasions the persecution of His Church.
Christmas brings everlasting division.
It would be good to think about these things as you do your Christmas shopping. Everywhere music, laughter, gaiety, and shouts of “Merry Christmas”. But it is all a facade. Many shout “Merry Christmas” only because they have distorted and corrupted the idea, meaning and purpose of Christmas for themselves. Is it possible that in Hell some will rethink this expression and ask themselves why they had formerly spoke of a Merry Christmas? The reprobate world is a seething cauldron of iniquity and hatred toward God and His Christ. This hatred is awakened by the preaching of the Church.
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