3. Its Well-Spring (continued)
The triune Jehovah is the first and the last of all things. In His being He is self-existent, perfect in Himself, the fountain of life, His own eternity, His own blessedness and glory, which He has inherently, and not from any adulation of His creatures. For nothing is added to nor detracted from His glory. The entire universe as compared to His is less than nothing and vanity. Before the creation of all worlds, when He dwelled in nothing but eternity, what was His activity? The eternal three persons of the trinity lived in mutual covenant love and friendship, rejoicing in their common glory. It pleased the Lord to take up into this blessed inter-theistic covenant society the fellowship of creatures made in His own image. To realize this, He, in His eternal counsel, foreordained and foreappointed the second person of the trinity, the eternal Son of God, to come down into creature being, as true God and true man. In the incarnation, the tabernacle of God was historically with men. In the incarnate Word, man was raised to the highest union and fellowship with God. For the eternal Word, Himself God, became flesh and tabernacle among us, to realize God’s great purpose and end. This purpose was not dependent in any way upon this creature. God chose His people in Christ. That means that He thought of them in the love of Christ before He thought of the foundation of the world. He thought fo them as His own before He thought of them as fallen. He thought of them in love apart from any foresight of their faith or works. From eternity, He bounded His children, including their works, with grace. Christ was foreordained before the foundation of the world to a higher purpose than the saving of His people from the result of the fall of man. He Himself was chosen of God as the object of His supreme delight (Isa. 42:1). He was chosen of God that the fullness and the image of God might dwell in the man Christ Jesus bodily. So human nature was destined to be and in Christ was brought up into fellowship with the holy trinity, who eternally lives a blessed covenant life.
Thus the Father not only loved the eternal Son of God in the Spirit, but also loved the Son of God incarnate, and in Him, all the many sons He gave to Christ in His eternal purpose. We may agree with the proposition, though it be an infralapsarian motto, that God cannot love a non-entity. Who would say otherwise? But Christ, the great Fountain of life, and His people in Him, have existence in the mind of God, and as they are there the objects of His everlasting love (Jer. 31:3) and His everlasting consolation (2 Thess. 2:16), they cannot be said to be non-entities. Christ was foreordained from times eternal as the heavenly Bridegroom, and then his bride was chosen for Him. They were chosen together, since the decree of God is one, the Husband the head of the wife and the wife for the Husband. Yet the Husband, the Bridegroom, is the first in the order of the decree. With Christ and His people set up from everlasting in the mind and purpose of God, He could and did love and delight in them before all worlds. “Thou hast sent Me and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved me…for Thou lovest Me before the foundation of the world” (Jn. 17:23f).
This is further brought out in that wonderful passage, Proverbs, chapter 8, where Wisdom appears, not a mere attribute of God, but having specific reference to Christ, who is “the Wisdom of God” (I Cor. 1:24). That a real person is in view is evident from “I love them that love Me” (17). That he is a divine person is plain from, “By Me kings reign” (15). That this divine person is also thought of in human nature is suggested in, “My delights were with the sons of men” (31). “The Lord possessed Me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old” (22). The KJV is somewhat misleading at this point, for the preposition “in” does not appear in the Hebrew. The ASV margin’s insertion of the word “as” is not much help. It would be better to translate, “The Lord possessed Me, the Beginning of His way.” Or, if any insertion is desirable, “The Lord possessed Me, who am the Beginning of His way.” Christ who is made unto us Wisdom speaks of himself under one of His many names, The Beginning. “He is the Head of the body, the church, who is The Beginning, the Firstborn from the dead” (Col 1:18). He has other names: “the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God” (Rev. 3:14). Jehovah possessed the One called The Beginning of His Way. In what sense He was possessed is explained where the same word is used in Gen. 4:1. Eve said at the birth of Cain. “I have gotten (possessed) a man.” The idea is that of a begetting. “The Lord has eternally begotten Me.” So He is called the only begotten God (Jn. 1:18, ASVm). As the Word, Wisdom, the Beginning, the First, He is the first in the thoughts and purposes of God’s decrees, the delight of God from eternity.
“I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was” (23). The personal pronoun “I” denotes a person, not a mere abstract attribute, and “from everlasting” indicates a divine person is speaking. “I was set up,” i.e. anointed, ordained, established “from eternity.” Wisdom was eternally begotten of the Father, before time began. Christ came out of the womb of the decree of election before He came out of the womb of the virgin.
“When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth” (24:25). The Son says, “I was brought forth,” begotten from eternity, “Before the hills was I brought forth,” by eternal generation.
“When He gave to the sea His decree, that the waters should not pass (transgress) His commandment: when He appointed the foundations of the earth, then I was by Him, as one brought up with Him: and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him” (29,30). Here Christ refers to Himself not only as the second person, the Son of God, but as the Mediator, the Head of the church, the First in the book of God’s decrees. If it may be said to have a beginning, Christ is the Beginning of God’s eternal counsel. “Then I was beside Him (as a co-equal), a father” (Hebrew). Christ, in His own right is a father. He is “the Father of eternity” (Isa. 9:6). It is grammatically possible that Eph. 1:17 teaches that Christ is “the father of glory”. But at any rate, He, when God decreed to create, was beside the Father, Himself a father, or a founder, an architect. He indeed is the Builder, both of the universe, and of the House of God (Jn. 1:3; Ps. 127:1). As a father He also has children (Isa. 8:18).
“I was daily His delights.” God was always delighting in the Son, even as the mediator who is the visible representation of the invisible God, because He is the express Image of God’s person, the brightness of His glory, His own likeness, ever being in the form of God. “Rejoicing toward His persons” (Hebrews; cf. same word; Lev. 19:15), i.e., God’s elect, in whom His soul delights, “My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” rejoicing in face to face converse with the other persons of the trinity. “Rejoicing in the habitable part of His earth; and My delights were with the sons of men” (31). Here is the decree of the incarnation (God with men), which includes the cross, for it was through the cross that He could delight in the sons of men.
Certain “Christians,” with their non-doctrinal faith, and indeed their aversion to doctrine, and especially their detestation of the doctrine of God’s absolute sovereignty, will exhort us to busy ourselves not with our Calvinistic intricacies, but with “preaching Christ”. We have had our eyes on them for years, but have never known them to preach Christ in His most important character, the covenant head of His people. They never preach Christ as God’s Elect in whom His soul delighteth. They never preach Christ comprehensively nor intelligently, because they do not begin at the beginning and preach Christ as the foreordained Lamb delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. They often boast of giving Christ the pre-eminence in all things, yet they do not give it Him in His election!
A wonderful truth which these superficial preachers of Christ regularly omit is that which the Lord Himself proclaimed: “the men which Thou gavest Me…Thine they were and Thou gavest them Me. I pray for them. I pray not for the world, but for them which Thou hast given Me; for they are Thine” (Jn. 17:6, 9). When were these men given to Christ? In eternity, before the foundation of the world, for since then God loved His Son, and as well loved them (cf. Jer. 31:3, with Jn. 17:24). What did God do then in eternity, when He gave these persons to Christ? We have an example in the creation of Eve and the giving of her to Adam in marriage union. As Adam saw her, loved her in the sight, and took her unto himself as his bride, so the church was given to Christ in a marriage covenant from eternity. As Eve was given to Adam before the fall, so the church was given to Christ in the mind of God before any thought of sin.
Preach Christ in His highest glory? Then let that preaching show that Christ was not ordained in the eternal counsel of God for the church, but that the church was ordained for Him. Adam was not created for Eve, but Eve was formed for Adam. (I Cor. 11:7-9). Further, Adam was not complete in himself without Eve. He needed a help meet (fit) for him. In Eve he found his complement. So the man Christ Jesus was not complete without the church, which is His fullness. The body is not complete without the head. Yet the head needs the body. For it is through the body that the glory of the head is manifested.
Let it be preached, too, that the names of the elect “are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life” (Rev. 21:27), that they are “written among the living in Jerusalem” (Isa. 4:3), as, in fact, “in Thy Book all My members were written” (Ps. 139:16). The Book of Life, containing the register of all the elect, reveals the accurate knowledge God has of all who are His, and also proves that eternal election is of particular persons, for names are there definitely recorded. That Book also teaches the absolute safety and security of the elect, for their names shall never be blotted out of it. It is called the Lamb’s Book of Life because His name is at the head of the register (Heb. 10:7, Gk). So His name is at the head of the N.T. (Matt. 1:1). It is the Book of Life because He is the Life, the Prince of Life, Christ our Life, and because election is unto eternal life. Do you believe that he Lamb of God was sacrificed for you, to take away your sins? Then you may be assured that your name is written in that Book!
(To be continued, D.V.)
Are you busy August 24, 25, 26? If not, try the 25th Annual Young Peoples Convention in South Holland.
Everyone is Welcome.