April 2004, Volume IX,
Holding the Traditions (1)
Scripture (God’s hammer) is the more sure word that shall
never pass away, for it is God-breathed and unbreakable. Though the Bible is an
incomparable book, this does not mean that Christians should not also read other
Our various callings usually require other reading. Education
(both of children and adults) and most forms of employment necessitate reading.
Even reading of newspapers enables us to keep informed of the world in which we
The Bible actually refers to non-inspired books, such as "the
book of Jasher" (Josh. 10:13) and the books of Samuel, Nathan and Gad (I Chron.
29:29). As well as citing the God-breathed OT, Paul quotes (without naming) some
pagan authors, such as, Aratus (Acts 17:28), Epimenides (Titus 1:12) and
Menander (I Cor. 15:33).
But what about "tradition?" "Doesn’t the Roman church vaunt
her tradition? Surely all tradition is bad." What then do you make of II
Thessalonians 2:15 (a text oft quoted by apologists of Romanism and Eastern
Orthodoxy): "brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions?" Not only is there a
positive reference to "traditions" in this verse, but the text also urges
Christians to "stand fast" and "hold" them.
But what does Rome means by tradition? Rome believes that
God’s Word consists of two parts, Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. Both
have God as their source and they are to be received with equal respect and
veneration. Either (or both) can be used to establish or prove a doctrine. The
Catechism of the Catholic Church
(quoting Vatican II) declares that Rome "does not derive her certainty about all
revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition
must be accepted and honoured with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence"
Rome’s tradition includes transubstantiation, the worship of
the host, the mass as a sacrifice for the living and the dead; the immaculate
conception, bodily assumption and heavenly mediation of Mary; the universal
dominion and infallibility of the pope; the seven sacraments, involving
auricular confession and penance; purgatory, indulgences, prayers for the dead,
prayers to the saints; the rosary and the worship of idols.
Rome teaches that there is an oral transmission of God’s
truth from the apostles and their successors over the centuries within the
(Roman) church. Some of this tradition is now written in the decisions of the
ecumenical and Roman councils, the papal pronouncements, and the writings of the
church fathers and the doctors of the church. Unwritten tradition will be
disclosed in future Roman dogmas. The magisterium (the Roman church’s teaching
office) determines what is Sacred Tradition and what is not. But is all this
what II Thessalonians 2:15 has in mind by "traditions?" Rev. Stewart
Achan’s Sin and Punishment (2)
And it shall be, that he that is taken with the accursed
thing shall be burnt with fire, he and all that he hath: because he hath
transgressed the covenant of the Lord, and because he hath wrought folly in
Israel (Josh. 7:15).
A reader asks, "Would you please explain to me what was the
accursed thing mentioned in Joshua 8:15, and why was the punishment to severe?"
Last time, I recounted some of the history of Achan’s sin and
called attention to the fact that God had pronounced all that was in Jericho
accursed. The Hebrew word "accursed" means "devoted to God." That which is
accursed is also devoted to God.
Achan’s sin of stealing some of the accursed things from
Jericho (a Babylonish garment, some silver and a wedge of gold) brought the
curse upon him and upon the entire nation of Israel. The result was that the
relatively small city of Ai decisively defeated the armies of Israel and 36
soldiers were killed.
Before we go on to answer the question which one of our
readers submitted, I want to call attention to another aspect of this passage
which is of crucial importance. How is it that Achan’s theft of the accursed
thing brought the curse not only upon him and his family, but upon the entire
nation? Clearly the nation of Israel as whole was responsible before God for
Achan’s sin. Achan’s guilt came upon everyone in Israel. Achan’s curse was the
curse upon the whole nation. That curse had to be removed or the nation would
have perished and would never have inherited the promised land. How can Achan’s
sin be the sin of the nation? That is the question. That question is underscored
by the fact that the sin of Achan was secret. No one knew about it. The 36
soldiers who were killed did not know about it. No one, other than Achan’s
family knew it had happened. Yet the whole nation is punished.
Remember that when God gave instructions to Israel concerning
Jericho, He specifically said that anyone who took of the accursed thing in
Jericho, would not only make himself accursed, but would also "make the camp of
Israel a curse" (6:18).
When Israel was defeated in battle by the inhabitants of Ai,
Joshua, filled with consternation, cried to God for an explanation. The Lord was
rather short with him: "Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face?
Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I
commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also
stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff.
Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but
turned their backs before their enemies, because they were accursed: neither
will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you"
(7:10-12). Also God’s command shows that He lays the sin of Achan upon the whole
nation: "Up sanctify the people, and say, Sanctify yourselves against tomorrow;
for thus saith the Lord God of Israel, There is an accursed thing in the midst
of thee, O Israel: thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away
the accursed thing from among you" (7:13). "Israel hath sinned!" That is God’s
word to Joshua.
Why does God do this? It is almost impossible for people to
understand these things in our day of individualism in which the motto of people
is: "Every man for himself ..." Arminianism has done this to the church.
Arminianism is individualistic. It is only concerned about the individual’s
relation to God, and rarely, if ever, speaks in terms of corporate
responsibility and solidarity. However, Scripture is not individualistic.
A couple of examples will demonstrate this. First, Adam’s
fall in Paradise brought sin upon the whole human race. This means not only that
the effects of Adam’s sin were inherited by the whole human race, but also that
the guilt of Adam’s sin is the guilt of all men. Every one, you and I included,
are guilty of eating of the forbidden fruit and could go to hell for that sin
alone. This is clearly the teaching of Romans 5:12-14.
Israel was very conscious of corporate responsibility.
Neither Joshua nor Israel were surprised when God held the entire nation
accountable for what Achan had done, even though when that great sin was
committed they were unaware of it.
Second, when Daniel realized that the 70 years of Judah’s
captivity was nearly ended, he made a remarkable prayer (Dan. 9). In that
prayer, he confesses the sins of the nation which brought Judah to Babylon as
his own sins as well as the sins of the nation. "We have sinned, and have
committed iniquity" (5). "Neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the
prophets" (6). "Unto us belongeth confusion of face, to our kings, to our
princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against thee" (9). And so
on. Read this beautiful chapter and learn from it.
We are always responsible for the sins of the corporate unity
to which we belong, whether of our families, our church, or our country. God
visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth
generation of them that hate Him. Wives and children suffer for the sin of
drunkenness in a wicked father. Whole families suffer from the adulteries of one
of the parents.
This important truth lies at the foundation of the text in
Joshua. Achan’s sin is so terrible because, by it, he brought grief and sorrow
upon the whole nation. Think of a father who, although he knows what grief and
anguish he will bring on his wife, his children, his parents, his fellow members
in the church and his acquaintances by consorting with other women, nevertheless
commits adultery with them. He is certainly guilty of the adultery which he
committed; but he is also guilty of the suffering he brought upon those who are
part of his life. That makes his sin all the more terrible. Achan was
responsible for the death of 36 soldiers.
In other words, although the guilt of Achan’s sin was the
guilt of the entire nation, Achan’s sin stood as the cause of it, and his guilt
was the greater. Prof. H. Hanko
The Lukewarm Church (4)
It only remains to tidy up some loose ends and flesh out
further the positive interpretation of Revelation 3:20: "Behold, I stand at the
door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to
him, and will sup with him, and he with me."
First, the "door" at which Christ stands and knocks is the
heart and life of each of the members of the church at Laodicea. One could even
extend this to include unbelievers who make no confession of faith in Christ,
provided, of course, that Christ’s "knocking" is rightly understood.
Second, the "knocking" is the faithful proclamation of the
Word of God. By this means, Jesus Christ Himself summonses men. God is holy and
you are polluted before Him. There is a rap at your door to leave your carnal
mindedness and vain delusions of righteousness (17) to embrace Jesus Christ.
Hell looms as a bottomless cavern that is never full. This is another loud and
insistent bang on the door. The atoning death of Christ is the only way of
salvation for guilty sinners. Another knock! Clearly and unmistakably, men are
called and summonsed by the preaching of the gospel to repentance and faith—the
only way of enjoying everlasting life in Jesus Christ.
But does this not mean that Christ wants to save everybody?
Is He not at the door of every man’s heart earnestly desiring to come in? No,
the text says that He "stands" and knocks, not that He is on His knees and
knocks. It is true that He does desire to come in to some men. Christ identifies
them thus: "as many as I love;" not, "as many as I do not love." They are His
sons, whom He chastens (19); not "bastards" (Heb. 12:8). Love is that which
desires fellowship and communion. Christ does not love but hates the reprobate
(Rom. 9:13). Thus He does not yearn to "sup" or dine (20) with them.
While all under faithful preaching hear the external
knocking, only in the elect is it accompanied by the irresistible power of the
Holy Spirit. "Many are called [externally], but few are chosen" and thus few
receive the internal call (Matt. 22:14), for election and (effectual) calling
are inseparably joined (Rom. 8:30). Many only hear the knocking with their
physical ears, while others also hear the knocking with God-given spiritual ears
(Matt. 13:14-16). To the former the preaching (Christ’s knocking) is a "savour
of death unto death," but to His elect it is a "savour of life unto life" (II
Third, Christ’s coming in to dine with men who "open" the
door to Him does not mean that all men have the power to do this. Jesus
declared, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him"
(John 6:44). God opens the hearts of His people (Acts 16:14) or "draws" them so
that they "come" to Christ (John 6:44) willingly (Ps. 110:3). The elect are
empowered by the knocking of faithful preaching to open their hearts and lives
to Christ so that we consciously enjoy covenant communion with him. In the
Spirit and through His Word, we sit together and dine together, fellowshipping
with Him in the riches of His gospel. Rev. Stewart
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