A Particular Gospel!

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The act of preaching is a general proclamation of a particular gospel.

“Any departure from the strict view of the extent of the atonement is to be seriously dreaded because it almost uniformly indicates a lurking tendency to call into question the sovereignty of divine grace altogether. Here it is invariably found to open a door for the influx of the entire tide of the Pelagian theory of human ability, in the train of that Arminian notion of the divine decrees which is apt to be its precursor” (Dr John Kennedy). But a departure there has been in our modern theologians and preachers. Not only has Amyraldianism crept iin but also Arminianianism. The Calvinism espoused in Western evangelicalism is a soft, even effeminate Calvinism.

Preaching is a general proclamation of a particular gospel. The Reformed church has ever insisted that the particular promise of God must be promiscuously preached so that all who hear may know that promise. In the preaching of the gospel God promises salvation only to those who believe, God does not, and will not promise salvation to unbelievers. Neither does God promise salvation to those whom he does not intend to save. The promiscuous preaching of God’s particular promise is accompanied by the command for all men to repent and believe in Christ, “but now commandeth all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:30). He, in whom alone is salvation to be found, “neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). The promiscuous preaching of God’s particular promise is not hyper-Calvinism.

It is important to know and remember that the earlier Reformed theologians and preachers used the word offer in their proclamation. But what’s of equal importance is to know and remember what they meant by the use of that word. They did not mean to express a desire or intention on God’s part to save everyone who hears the gospel. Rather that through the preaching of Christ widely proclaimed, that all the hearers would be confronted with the command to repent and believe. “But in that proclamation, only those chosen and ordained to be redeemed by Christ will actually repent and believe the gospel. They alone are so called that they are attracted and created new and begotten. They alone are those for whom God not only strikes their ears by his word preached through men but also attacks their hearts, opening them, writing his law in them, changing them and inflaming them to love him” (Heinrich Heppe). And, “there are no decrees of God which men or any creature can frustrate. They are altogether effectual and have a most definite outcome” (Heinrich Heppe).

The preaching of the gospel is a means, a means God uses to save his elect, but also to bring judgment on the unbelieving. Hardening is in God’s hand and will, just as much as mercy is (Romans 9:14ff). Furthermore, it is unlawful for the clay to quarrel with its Potter, “nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour” (Romans 9:20)? And, “every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up” (Matthew 15:13). If that is not a sign of reprobation, then what is?

“Indeed many, as if they wished to avert a reproach from God, accept election in such terms as to deny that anyone is condemned. But they do this very ignorantly and childishly, since election itself could not stand except as set over against reprobation. God is said to set apart those whom he adopts into salvation; it will be highly absurd to say that others acquire by chance or obtain by their own effort what election alone confers on a few. Therefore, those whom God passes over, he condemns, and this he does for no other reason than that he wills to exclude them from the inheritance which he predestines for his own children. And men’s insolence is unbearable if it refuses to be bridled by God’s word” (John Calvin). The general proclamation is enough to take away any excuse from the reprobate, although it is not enough for salvation. Reception of the gospel and rejection of the gospel take place on the basis of God’s will, not man’s will or works.

The act of preaching is a general proclamation of a particular gospel.

(© James R Hamilton, 24th May 2017)
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God’s Revelation!

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“The Bible must be accepted as absolutely inerrant and authoritative on all matters with which it deals at all. Otherwise, it is not really the word of God! If any man, or group of men, are empowered to tell us authoritatively what God’s word means, then we may as well entrust them with a commission to write the Bible altogether. Man seeks to become God if he (whether he is a theologian or scientist or anyone else) insists that his word must be accepted authoritatively as to what God’s word means.

We do not question that God “speaks” through his creation, but such natural revelation must never be considered equal in clarity or authority to his written revelation, especially as it often is “interpreted” by fallible human scholars, many of whom do not even believe the Bible. The Scriptures, in fact, do not need to be “interpreted” at all, for God is well able to say exactly what he means. They need simply to be read as the writer intended them to be read, then believed and obeyed. This applies to their abundance of “factual” information as well as to their religious and practical instructions.
By the same token, we must also recognise that God’s world must always agree with God’s word, for the Creator of the one is the Author of the other, and ‘he cannot deny himself’ (2Timothy 2:13). God’s revelation in nature can often amplify and illustrate his word, but his written revelation must always inform and constrain our interpretation of nature.
With such premises to caution us, we soon see that the Bible contains numerous statements affirming that God does, indeed, speak to us through his creation. A few of these, for example, are abstracted from such scriptures as the following:
 
“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens and they will tell you, or the bushes of the earth and they will teach you, and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Whom among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? Job 12:7-9).
“The heavens declare the glory of the God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1).
“Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17).

God’s revelation in nature, therefore, must always supplement and confirm his revelation in Scripture. It cannot be used to correct or interpret it. If there is an apparent conflict, one that cannot be resolved by a more careful study of the relevant data of both science and Scripture, then the written word must take priority….Even though the Bible is not a scientific textbook, it does speak authoritatively on the fundamental principles of science. Furthermore, it speaks correctly even on details of science whenever it refers to them at all.” (Henry M. Morris)

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The Sabbath Rest!

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It is the argument of atheists that the state should have nothing to do with personal behaviour. Marriage law (until recently upheld by ‘Christian’ countries) stands on the same basis in Genesis 2 as does the seven-day cycle. Both should be upheld by governments. That contempt for God and the ten commandments brings judgments on nations is a clear truth in Scripture. And the common form of such judgment is the removal of spiritual blessings (2Chronicles 36:17-21; Jeremiah 17:27; Lamentations 2:6; Ezekiel 22:26-31). An observation that William Hewitson once made in Germany has universal application: ‘Germany tells me, that if Scotland loses her Sabbaths, she will lose along with them her religion and her God.’ Some believe that for Christians to bear witness to the fourth commandment in an unsympathetic world would be to impede evangelism. The reverse has tragically proved to be true. Bishop Ryle understood what would happen in England if Sunday became as any other day: “Break down the fence which now surrounds the Sunday, and our Sunday Schools will soon come to an end. Let in the flood of worldliness and pleasure-seeking on the Lord’s Day, without check or hindrance, and our congregations will soon dwindle away. There is not too much religion in the land now. Destroy the sanctity of the Sabbath, and there will soon be far less…It would be a joy to the infidel, but it would be an insult and offence to God.” It is true that civil law can only restrain public disregard for the Lord’s Day, but to argue against the limited use of law to no use at all has been proved folly.

(Rest in God, by Ian Murray)

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Son of Man!

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I’ve interacted with Muslim’s in different parts of the world. The one question asked by the majority of them, at some point is, did Jesus ever say that he was God? The short answer, yes. When he refers to himself as the ‘Son of Man’ it is, I think, misunderstood that he is speaking of his humanity, as opposed to his deity. I once thought that way myself. But it is incorrect. To understand the phrase ‘Son of Man’ we must needs go back to the Old Testament, and the book of Daniel:

” I saw in the night-visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14).

The ‘Son of Man’ here is given “dominion, and glory, and a kingdom…an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.” Other successive kingdoms, empires were represented by the figure of some appointed beast, but their reign was temporary (Daniel 7:12). In contrast with such this one’s kingdom shall appear in the vision as a man. And his kingdom shall be everlasting. The Jews of Jesus’ day knew and understood the term ‘Son of Man’ and that’s why they were so filled with rage when he used as appropriate for himself. They understood that the ‘Son of Man’ would be their deliverer, that he would indeed come “with the clouds of heaven” (Daniel 7:13), and be the final judge of all mankind. Jesus applied this title to himself, and thus incurred the wrath of the Jews. It doesn’t simply identify him as a man, apart from his divinity. It identifies his as the heavenly Person who would “come with the clouds of heaven” (Daniel 7:13), and finally judge the world in righteousness. The martyr Stephen confirms this for us does he not:

“But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55-56).

He, Stephen, is seeing the same vision Daniel saw and prophesies in Daniel chapter seven. The heavenly Person, the ‘Son of Man’ appearing in the glorious presence of God. Jesus himself confirms this:

“Whosoever, therefore, shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38). And, “and then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory” (Mark 13:26).

So make no mistake as the meaning of this phrase, the ‘Son of Man’ as Jesus applies it to himself. The contrast to his humility clearly expressed in his earthly sojourn, suffering and death (Philippians 2:5-8), is intentional. It speaks of his stupendous dignity that correctly belongs to him, the ‘Son of Man.’ He is man’s Creator, Law-giver, and final Judge. Make no mistake, he is God manifest in the flesh (1Timothy 3:16). He is the transcendent heavenly man of Daniel’s vision and he’s coming soon with the clouds of heaven, and to finally judge the world. To usher in his everlasting kingdom. Jesus Christ, there is no other God but he.

(© James R Hamilton, 3rd May 2017)
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