December 2004, Volume X,
Receiving Preaching as the Word of
Though the doctrine that preaching of the Word of God is the
Word of God does not confuse preaching and the Bible (see the last News),
is not the preacher perhaps divine or at least divine when he is preaching? Of
course not! The preacher is not God and does not share God’s being or works.
Rather, God blesses His own truth which is faithfully opened up and explained by
a saved sinner "sent" by Jesus Christ.
Perhaps this doctrine might make the preacher arrogant and
domineering, and doesn’t it imply that he is infallible? The preacher is not
inspired or infallible. Instead, believing this doctrine humbles the minister—a
sinful man used to declare God’s counsel.
Another objection is that this view of preaching as the Word
of God might make void the office of believer. Are not Christians, therefore,
simply to receive everything from the pulpit unquestioningly? No. Scripture
teaches both that preaching "is in truth, the word of God" (I Thess. 2:13) and
that we must be like the Bereans who "received the word [preached] with all
readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were
so" (Acts 17:11). All preaching must be tested. Preaching which is not in
accordance with the Bible must be rejected as a lie and not the Word of God.
Preaching which is in accordance with the Bible must be received as the Word of
Someone might then ask, "Shouldn’t we write down sermons and
add them to the biblical canon?" No; although faithful preaching is the Word of
God, it is not a supplement to the Bible. Rather it is an explanation of the
Bible by one of Christ’s messengers to His church.
To summarise, preaching is the Word of God when it is a
faithful exposition of and exhortation from the Bible by one who is called of
God and His church to that office. This is what the Bible teaches. We have seen
that Paul, Silas, Timothy and all true ministers have the office of publicly
proclaiming God’s Word. Acts 17:2-3 describes this as reasoning out of the
Scriptures and explaining and demonstrating the truth of Jesus Christ, crucified
and risen. I Thessalonians 2:13 calls this "the word of God."
Preaching must be God’s Word for it to be the chief means of
grace. If Jesus Christ does not speak to us in the preaching, how can we receive
God’s grace and be blessed and built up thereby? Preaching is the chief means of
grace because by it Christ speaks to us and imparts Himself to us. It is the
link between God’s redemption of us in Christ and our apprehension of it by
faith. If preaching is not Christ speaking to us, what is it? Merely religious
discourse or an interesting speech or the voice of the minister? Scripture rules
this out: faithful preaching is "not ... the word of men" but "it is in truth,
the word of God" (I Thess. 2:13). Rev. Stewart
The Eternal Covenant With Levi (4)
For thus saith the Lord; David shall never want a man to
sit upon the throne of the house of Israel; Neither shall the priests the
Levites want a man before me to offer burnt offerings, and to kindle meat
offerings, and to do sacrifice continually. And the word of the Lord came unto
Jeremiah, saying, Thus saith the Lord; If ye can break my covenant of the day,
and my covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in
their season; then may also my covenant be broken with David my servant, that he
should not have a son to reign upon his throne; and with the Levites the
priests, my ministers (Jer. 33:17-21).
The question that was submitted with this text is: "How has
the promise to the Levites been fulfilled?" Previously we discussed various
aspects of the text quoted above. We noticed that it has important implications
for the faithful remnant in Judah and for the church of all ages, for it deals
with God’s covenant promises. But the specific question has not yet been
answered. That question deals with the fulfilment of this prophecy insofar as it
pertains to the priests of the tribe of Levi.
I remind our readers that we noticed that the fulfilment of
the promise to David, of which the text speaks, came with the coming of Christ.
The same is true concerning the promise of the restoration of the priesthood of
the tribe of Levi. There are several texts in Scripture and several teachings of
Scripture to consider in this respect.
First, as well as Malachi 2:4-5 there is another place in
Scripture where God’s choice of the priesthood of Levi is called a covenant
which He establishes. I refer to the heroic and godly deed of slaying the
fornicators who publicly and brazenly committed their act of fornication in the
sight of the nation. This was at the time when the daughters of Moab, at the
suggestion of Balaam, tempted the men of Israel to join in the sacrifices and
fornications of Moab’s idolatry. Phinehas slew a prince of Simeon named Zimri
and the Moabite woman he took into his tent.
God’s word was: "Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of
Aaron the priest, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, while
he was zealous for my sake among them, that I consumed not the children of
Israel in my jealousy. Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of
peace: and he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an
everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an
atonement for the children of Israel" (Num. 25:11-13).
Notice that the covenant with Phinehas is described as
everlasting, something not possible with Phinehas himself; and thus a reference
Second, Christ is the fulfilment of all the priests of the
tribe of Levi as the great High Priest sent from God to make perfect atonement
for sin. He is the realization of God’s covenant with Phinehas. Christ is the
perfect fulfilment because He offers the perfect sacrifice for sin and thus
fulfils all the sacrifices specifically mentioned in this prophecy of Jeremiah.
Although this is one of the great themes in the book of Hebrews, it is
specifically taught in chapter 10:1-14—which passage our readers are urged to
look up and read. In Christ, therefore, the promise of God concerning the
Levites is fulfilled.
The beautiful part of this prophecy and its fulfilment is
that Christ, in fulfilling both parts of the promise of God through Jeremiah,
united in Himself the two offices of king and priest. Both the promises of the
restoration of the monarchy and the restoration of the sacrifices have their
historical fulfilment in the return from captivity, but both also have their
perfect fulfilment in Christ.
Thus Hebrews tells us some important things about Christ. He
is not a priest after the order of Aaron and the Levites, but He is a priest
after the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 7—which chapter our readers are also
urged to consult). Melchizedek was a unique type of Christ, for He was the only
man in the Old Testament who united the office of priest and king in his own
person (Gen. 14:18; Heb. 7:1). Psalm 110 portrays Christ as a king (1-3) and as
a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek (4).
Hebrews 10, after describing Christ’s fulfilment of the
Levitical priesthood, goes on to say, "But this man [Christ], after he had
offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; from
henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool" (10:12-13). This is
a very clear reference to the fact that Christ, in His exaltation, becomes
priest and king forever, for the right hand of God is heaven’s position of total
authority to rule in the name of God.
And so God’s covenant with His people, typically administered
in the Old Testament, is fulfilled in Christ. Thus the whole of chapter 10 in
the epistle to the Hebrews follows upon that glorious description of the
covenant which is established through the Mediator of the new covenant and which
Judah was called by Jeremiah to look to the coming of Christ
for the fulfilment of God’s promise—even in the dark days of the captivity. We
are called to look likewise to the unfailing promises of God in Christ as we
live in our own captivity in the Babylon of this present world. Prof. H.
Love Your Enemies (1)
Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to
them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute
you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he
maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just
and on the unjust (Matt. 5:44-45).
Of the few texts which are cited in support of common grace
with any plausibility, Matthew 5:44-45 perhaps occurs the most frequently,
though usually without any supporting exegesis. All agree that God does give
good things to the reprobate in this life. But does this text really teach that
the earthly good things given by God to the reprobate are given by God out of
love for the reprobate?
The common grace interpretation of Matthew 5:44-45, of
course, creates several serious problems, problems which are largely ignored by
the theory’s advocates. How can the one and undivided God love and hate the same
people at the same time? How can the eternal, unchanging God have a temporal,
changeable love for the reprobate? Remember this alleged love of God for the
reprobate begins with their conception (unless it is posited that God eternally
loved the reprobate) and ends with their death (unless it is posited that God
loves the reprobate in Hell). Various evasions, such as "paradox," have been
made but no proper response has been given. In the meantime, the churches and
individuals who hold this theory (and those who follow them) go further away
from the truth of Calvinism (which they profess to hold) and deeper and deeper
into Arminianism, protesting all the while that they are Reformed.
But aside from these wider issues, we must examine the text
itself. Its subject is the Christian’s treatment of his "enemies," who are also
called "them that curse you," "them that hate you" and "them which despitefully
use you, and persecute you." Christ tells us here that we must do four things
with respect to our enemies: we must "love," "bless," "do good" and "pray for"
them. Our motivation for loving, blessing, doing good and praying for our
enemies is "that [we] may be the children of [our] Father which is in heaven."
For there is a likeness between our righteous actions and those of our Father
who "maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the
just and on the unjust." To put it differently, the text makes a comparison
between what believers are called to do (44) and what God does (45), for in our
doing these things (44), we show ourselves to be His children (45). Thus we need
to consider the similarities and dissimilarities between what we must do towards
our enemies and what our Father does towards the "evil" and "unjust." What
exactly is being compared?
Does Christ do any of the four things ("love," "bless," "do
good" and "pray") for His enemies that we are to do to our enemies? Christ most
certainly does "love," "bless," "do good" and "pray for" His elect enemies. His
doing these very things for us is our salvation through the blood of His cross.
But does Christ do any, all or some of these things for His reprobate enemies?
And does God do any, all or some of these things for His reprobate enemies? To
these questions we will turn next time (DV). Rev. Stewart
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