January 2015 • Volume XV, Issue 9
The Voice Crying in the Wilderness (4)
The message declared by the voice crying in the wilderness
is summarized by the prophecy of Isaiah 40:3-5, which is
quoted in Luke 3:4-6: “As it is written in the book of the
words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying
in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his
paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every
mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked
shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made
smooth; And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”
The imagery here is that of a great king travelling in his
royal chariot to part of his realm. But the road is poor,
for it is crooked and bumpy, with many hills and dips. The
way must be fixed since the sovereign is coming. Level it,
straighten it and fill in the potholes!
Who is the coming One? Luke 3:4 refers to Him as the “Lord,”
who is Jehovah, rendered “Lord” in Isaiah 40:3, which also
identifies him as “God.” Thus, Jehovah God is coming! This
proves the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Second
Person of the Holy Trinity incarnate.
Luke 3:6 calls Him not merely our Saviour but “the salvation
of God.” This fits perfectly with the annunciation of the
angel Gabriel: “thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall
save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21).
Isaiah 40:5 hails Him as “the glory of the Lord.” Thus, the
message of John the Baptist is centred on the glory of God
revealed in Jesus Christ and His salvation.
What did John the Baptist command? He commanded the people
to prepare the way for the coming king, like those who fix
the road before the visit of the sovereign. They were to
prepare the way for Jesus Christ, who is the Lord, Jehovah
salvation, the glory of God.
But what is it to prepare the way of the Lord? What is the
truth conveyed by this attractive imagery? It is summed up
in one word: Repent! Matthew 3:2 encapsulates John’s
message: “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
What is repentance? First, repentance is a radical change of
mind and thinking with regard to ethical and divine things.
You no longer imagine yourself to be a good person, for you
realize your own sinfulness. As regards your works, you
discover that they are not virtuous, never mind meritorious,
for they are all “filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6). You understand
that Almighty God is infinitely holy and not to be trifled
with. You see that your security is not to be found in
external religious observances or mere church connections.
It finally grips you that you deserve to perish in hell for
Second, true repentance results in fleeing from the wrath to
come, in the language of Luke 3:7. The sinner is gripped
with a fear of divine judgment and punishment. He no longer
loves and rejoices in evil attitudes, speech and deeds, but
hates and detests his iniquities as evil that deserves God’s
wrath. Thus he earnestly turns from his transgressions, and
seeks salvation and eternal life in the cross of Christ.
Third, true repentance issues in confession of sin (Matt.
3:6). No longer do you excuse your iniquity, but you confess
sin as sin, worthy of God’s righteous judgment. With grief
and sorrow, sins are confessed to God and, where
appropriate, to those whom you have wronged or to the church
(Westminster Confession 15:6).
Fourth, true repentance brings forth good fruit, what John
the Baptist calls “fruits worthy of repentance” (Luke 3:8).
Where there is repentance, there is always faith, for these
two are inseparable so that you cannot have one without the
other. Faith and repentance are produced by regeneration,
the new birth, which makes the tree, and therefore its
fruit, good, to use the language of the Lord Jesus (Matt.
7:17-18; 12:33, 35). Thus, those who are really repentant
bring forth good fruit: they break with sin, they live
according to all God’s commandments in principle, they are
humble before God and man, they produce good works, they
persevere in the truth and they suffer for righteousness’
sake by the irresistible grace of the Holy Spirit. Where
there is no good fruit, there is no real repentance, merely
Fifth, there is an important connection between repentance
and baptism, both real, inner baptism and external, ritual
baptism with water. This is the testimony of Luke 3:3,
concerning John the Baptist’s ministry: “And he came into
all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of
repentance for the remission of sins.” John proclaimed an
inward, spiritual baptism which renewed God’s elect people
so that they would be brought infallibly to repentance and
receive the forgiveness of all their sins. This spiritual
transformation and acquittal was signified and sealed in
In John’s day, the kingdom of God was at hand, so he called
people to repent and so prepare for the (first) coming of
Christ. In our day, the kingdom of God has come, with the
incarnation, cross and victorious resurrection of Jesus
Christ, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of
Pentecost. Those outside the kingdom must repent and be
converted, humbling themselves as little children to enter
the kingdom of heaven, and those who are already citizens of
God’s kingdom must continue in the way of repentance and
faith (Matt. 18:3-4; Col. 2:6)!
This is the first of Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses:
“When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’ (Matt.
4:17), He willed the entire life of believers to be one of
repentance.” This was also the message of John the Baptist,
as we have seen, and it is and must be the preaching of the
true church today! Rev. Stewart
God’s Foreknowledge and Man’s Free Will (1)
One correspondent writes, “Do you realize that God has no
foreknowledge outside His creation? He can’t have
foreknowledge of His own actions. Remember, He had no
beginning and foreknowledge only exists prior to a
Although the question proceeds on a misconception and has an
air of arrogance about it, when it suggests that those who
believe in God’s foreknowledge really do not understand what
foreknowledge is, the question is worth our consideration.
Another questioner has obviously given the matter
considerable thought, but continues to have some problems
with the idea of foreknowledge. He writes,
“I understand the passages about ‘before the foundation of
the world’ in the light of foreknowledge.
1. What is that foreknowledge? For those He foreknew. What
did God foreknow?
2. If the elect are chosen before the foundation of the
world outside of foreknowledge of the individual, then, at
what point were they ever condemned? I do not see how one
can be simultaneously condemned and saved at the same time.
“As Moses raised up the serpent—
1. Numbers 21:8-9, I am sure we will agree that Christ
Himself used this passage as a picture of what He was doing
on the cross [John 3:14]. Well, in this picture, all of the
people that were bitten had to use their free will and
simply looked upon the serpent to live, and all who didn’t
died. How can this be a picture of Christ in the Calvinist
eye, when looking is an act of conscience and of will?
2. This cannot be an accurate picture, if the consequences
are not applied in the same manner.
3. The serpent was never kept away from those who were
bitten so that [they] would never be able to look upon it.
If salvation is not available to those who are bitten, then
it is not an accurate picture.”
This last question does not have foreknowledge in mind, but
it is so closely related to the subject of foreknowledge
that it is well to treat the two together.
First of all, we ought to be sure of what the Bible means by
The word is not frequently used in Scripture. It is found
only in Acts 2:23 and I Peter 1:2. Its verb cognate,
“foreknow,” is used only in Romans 8:29 and Romans 11:2.
In Acts 2:23, the word is used to teach us that Christ’s
death and all the circumstances of it were brought about by
God’s sovereign and eternal counsel. The word
“foreknowledge” is, in fact, identified with His counsel.
In the other three instances, the word is used in relation
to God’s people: “For whom he did foreknow, he also did
predestinate;” “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God
the Father;” “God hath not cast away his people which he
Although foreknowledge is distinguished from both
predestination and election, it is closely associated with
In the Middle Ages, many theologians, committed as they were
to the Pelagianism of Rome, defined foreknowledge in the
sense of prediction. God was able to predict accurately who
would, by his own free will, believe, and, on the basis of
man’s own decision to believe, he was elected. The
Reformers, without exception, condemned this view as being
contrary to the Scriptures and a denial of God’s
But the heresy arose again. It arose in the hypothetical
universalism of the Amyraldians in France and in the
Arminian heresy of Jacobus Arminius and his followers in the
Netherlands. Amyraldianism was condemned in the Formula
Consensus Helvetica (1675) and by the Westminster Assembly
(1640s), although the Amyraldian position or views like it
were defended by a few delegates. The Arminian position was
condemned by the Synod of Dordt (1618-1619).
The confessions that arose out of the Reformation are
unanimously opposed to a conditional predestination and
man’s free will. The Scottish Confession (1560) says, “So
that the cause of good works we confess to be not our free
will, but the Spirit of the Lord Jesus …” (Art. 13).
Regarding free will, Article 10 of the Thirty-Nine Articles
(1562/63) of the Church of England states, “The condition of
man, after the fall of Adam, is such, that he cannot turn
and prepare himself by his own natural strength and good
works to faith and calling upon God.” The Lambeth Articles
(1595), intended to be added to the Thirty-Nine Articles,
though never officially adopted by the Anglican Church, is
strong on the doctrine of predestination (www.cprf.co.uk/articles/lambeth.htm).
All the other Reformed confessions teach the same truth: the
French Confession (1559), the Belgic Confession (1561), the
Heidelberg Catechism (1563), etc.
It is faithfulness to the confessions to confess and
maintain these truths, and to oppose the heresies that
basically arose out of Rome. That most of the church today
is unfaithful to her heritage makes no difference; these
churches have simply repudiated what lies at the heart of
Reformation thought. In doing so, they have rejected
Zwingli, Luther, Calvin, Knox and all the later Reformed
theologians. Defenders of later heresies must not come up
with their denials of foreknowledge, predestination and
election, along with their notions of free will and attempt
to palm this off on the church as the truth of the
Scriptures. Let them do their homework and read Luther’s The
Bondage of the Will or Calvin’s
God’s Eternal Predestination
and Secret Providence. They will soon learn that they stand
outside the stream of biblical thought.
If they claim that the Reformation came with novelties, let
them go back to Augustine (354-430) and Gottschalk (c.
808-c. 867) to learn that these are ancient truths held by
the churches’ greatest theologians.
The only explanation for this consistent emphasis on God’s
foreknowledge and the bondage of the will of man is that
these doctrines that the Reformers taught are thoroughly
scriptural and must be maintained.
We will enter into the subject itself more completely in the
next article and answer some of the objections of the
gainsayers. I urge our readers to save this issue of the
News so that you can refer to it when the next issue comes
out to refresh your memories of the questions we are dealing
with. Prof. Hanko
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