Christian believers have a sense of destiny denied to others. This is because God’s created time is a realm of action moving towards the certain victory and triumph of our Saviour. By contrast the godless man and the humanist have no such certainty giving meaning to past or present deeds, or to future events. It is an article of faith for the humanist, agnostic, and atheist that God has no more to do with the unfolding of history than He does with science. The man without God is of no certain origin and has no certain hope to give any sense to the present. Generally they seek at every turn to destroy history or escape it and they show nothing but contempt for the future. The only thing that is sure is that nothing is sure? It surprising that someone like Fred M. Vinson, 13th Chief Justice of the US (June 1946 to September 1953) could make such a self-contradictory statement as this and still keep a straight face: “Nothing is so certain in modern society than the principle that there are no absolutes.” History does little more than record a struggle with an impersonal, mindless universe directed by pure chance. In his novel Nausea Jean-Paul Sartre reflects this: “Every existent is born without reason, prolongs itself out of weakness and dies by chance.”
Tomorrow never comes, so goes the old saying. We can do nothing but live in a meaningless present. Men and women in our decadent world live according to the dictum, “…let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we shall die” (Isaiah 22:13). What matters is right now. This perspective dominates modern attitudes to material possessions and guides all but a few bankers and economists. To use the words of John Maynard Keynes: “in the long run, we are all dead.” In this world it is foolhardiness to save but a virtue to contract debts: debts that will diminish with time or never be repaid.
Life and history without God lack the triumph that gives meaning to what we do and how we live. The songwriters of the sixties continually expressed these hopeless sentiments. They have gone but their legacy remains. In The Hitchhikers’ Song, Joan Baez sang:
You are the orphans in an age
of no tomorrows.
Bob Dylan whined “The Titanic sails at dawn”, in Desolation Row.
What can be done is such a situation? With unabashed arrogance, President John F. Kennedy said this: “All men’s problems were created by man, and can be solved by man.”Kennedy was only restating Renaissance concept of thinkers like Leon Battitsta Alberti: “A man can do all things if he will.” In other words, man must be his own saviour; there is no other outside helper beyond him. His only choice is to carve out his own destiny for himself. If man fails it will be his own fault and the consequences could spell disaster and ruin. The doom laden-writer, Gordon Rattray Taylor, wrote: “Current indications are that the world is bent on going to hell in a hand cart, and that is probably what it will do” (The Biological Time Bomb, 1969, p.151). In his book, The Step to Man, the biophysicist J. R. Platt, observes: “The world has now become too dangerous for anything less than Utopia” (p.196).
Refusing the providential working of God, men substitute their own version of predestination in its place. Modern social scientists and politicians strive to escape the dismal predictions of the poets and popular songwriters in their own way: a victory for the human race is to be gained only by total control and prediction, by tyranny. Today, humanistic science, godless economic theories, politics of every colour and creed, are charged with the task of bringing order where there is chaos, meaning where absurdity rules, by force if necessary. Social order must be created; there must be total planning through education, economic intervention, and environmental controls. There must be total control with nothing left to playful fortune. The irresistible will of nature must be tamed and harnessed. Central to this project are the functions of the State, but also science, the media, schools, universities and whatever other tools lie to hand. Everything is to be planned by an élite and nothing left to itself. History is not determined by fortune or fate, chaos or chance, nor is it in the incapable hands of social scientists or politicians, but in those of our sovereign God. History has meaning only because of God’s eternal decree and the act of creation. “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15:18).
Where God has been dispensed with, this leaves no law before or beyond the State. It is the last instance. The decree of men is ultimate law, the final arbiter of right and wrong against which there can be no further appeal, tyranny indeed. The State will not err and its will must be realised, freely or by coercion through the justice system or by police or military action. All attributes formally given to God are now freely appropriated by the modern State: omnipotent, omniscient, demanding our loyalty and unquestioning obedience. In reply we must say that God has said: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3) and this command has our prior allegiance. With Peter the apostle we say, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Our obedience to the law of the land is not unconditional, but applies only in as much as it is itself subject to the higher law of God. Contravention of divine law in any point by our own law makers relieves us of any obligation to obey that law lest we be found ourselves to be enemies of God.
The re-emergence of a new totalitarianism is not conspiratorial fancy or over pessimistic paranoia but is the inevitable consequence of godlessness and is predicted in Scripture. In his novel Demons [Бесы], the Russian writer, Fyodor Dostoevsky paints what must be a fairly accurate picture of life in such a world: “one-tenth will be granted individual freedom and full rights over the remaining nine-tenths, who will lose their individuality and become something like a herd of cattle.”
The godless oppressive hand of human tyranny, the brutal, impersonal irresistible force of cold fate and the grinding of nature’s self-determining laws can be no real substitute for divine providence and meaningful living determined by a loving heavenly Father who knows and can be known, who cares and watches over everything in the universe He created, nor indeed are they. The human race is in full rebellion against God. Alluding to the Psalms, the apostle Paul writes in his letter to the Romans (3:10-12):
“There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”
The fundamental problem is sin. Man’s basic need is redemption, but not one he can himself provide, rather alone through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus and life in Him to be able to walk in His ways. We need not a ‘new order’ brought about by revolutionary struggle, but we each need to be changed, born anew by the Spirit of God.
If we are to understand what history has been about through the ages, if we want to know where we are still to go, we must begin at the place in Scripture where history begins: at creation. This is not a flight from reality, but rather it is a return to it. Those who deny the literal biblical and historical account of creation in Genesis, or water it down in any way, or compromise with evolutionary thinking, let us not deceive ourselves, they do so for philosophical and religious reasons and only hide behind a pseudo-science – it is effectively wilful ignorance. Creation is a faith issue before it is anything else. Before anything else, I must answer the question: what do I believe?
It is not something new or a ‘modern’ phenomenon to reject creation. In his day, the apostle Peter encountered creation-deniers: “For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water”(2 Peter 3:5). Faith moves us from the world of human mythology and fabricated stories into the world of substance and reality. For those without God, myths are easier to live with. In the world of the imagination the dreams and hopes of fallen reason and the will of man can be realised. In the real world of stark reality man must face the limitations of being a creature and a sinful one at that where the boundaries of what he can do are given. In his mythical world man imagines himself sovereign and able to transform everything around him into what he wants it to be. Faith is in essence opposed to all domination of the world; this is pseudo-creation, rivalry with God. The schemes of men’s minds, whether Marxist, socialist, or democratic are deemed to be real and only need proper formulation and power to be transferred into society and the physical world. Those who think otherwise are irrational people, counterrevolutionaries, evil men, capitalists, not real. In imposing this mythological world on all men, seeking to make us all ‘rational’ our freedoms are denied, freedom to think as we ought, to obey God as we ought, to speak as we ought. The triumph of myth and unreason makes slaves of us all. The dreams and myths of our present world rulers have scarcely been more godless and so more dangerous.
Faith is not a leap into the darkness after which we are able to see. No, first our eyes are opened to believe what God has revealed in His Word. “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” (Hebrews 11:3) Only then can we see. Those dispensing with God’s creative act put themselves in an impossible position. Deny creation and no one is then able to make any real sense either of current events or history, of what is going on in the world, and still less of what is yet to come.
Creation as recorded in Genesis was an historical event from which all subsequent human history flows; no creation, no history and no sense to anything. Meaning and origins are of little interest to modern scientific minds but the process and the outcome are. This is not surprising since there is no longer the recognition of God’s providential working in the natural world as once there was by early scientists; there is no praise of Him for all His works. To the Puritans natural science was not something that threatened their faith as they saw it as revelatory of the handiwork of God. Cotton Mather in The Christian Philosopher, thinking of the sun, wrote:
“Glorious God, thou art the Father of Lights, the Maker of the Sun! …Enjoying the Benefits of the Sun, I will glorify him that made it: Thou alone art forever to be adored, O thou Maker of that Glorious Creature! …How glorious will the Righteous be in that World, when they shall shine as the Sun?”
Creation was an act of God and not a process. God spoke, and it was. The whole universe and everything in it without exception was created by and for the sovereign, omnipotent, omniscient, triune God.
“All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.”
“For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.”
“For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.”
Time and history are thus God’s creation, determined and governed by Him. This means that the ground of all that has happened since creation is not found within itself. The ground of creation is not self-generating or self-sustaining; it cannot be uncovered within creation but is found within eternity, within God the Creator. Eternity is not an abstraction. It is personal but only for God who alone is infinite, above time, and eternal. Plan and purpose in the world can only exist where there is a pre-existent, self-conscious and personal God. This is why personality and consciousness are so virulently denied, attacked, and explained away by godless men. Impersonal natural phenomena that are generated by contingency cannot produce personality, planning and meaning, but only absurdity and nothingness. A universe with meaning and reason demands a Creator who is self-conscious and personal. Every fact, every event, every detail of life is established by God’s eternal decree. “Whatsoever the LORD pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places.” (Psalm 135:6)
History is far more than an account or a written interpretation of what has happened in time, or the record of a long line of unplanned and chance events. True history records the unfolding eternal purposes of God with respect to the world He created. History is not propelled forward by internal impulses of impersonal natural forces totally isolated from meaning and reality. God is the Creator and above all He has made. He is not one of us, leading us all in a quasi fight against a universe of chaos like some kind of archetypal freedom fighter seeking to establish order and meaning where previously there was none. God created all things, governs all things, is above all things, and knows all things. “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15:18).
All those who know the Scriptures and genuinely know Christ’s salvation must surely concur with this statement from the Westminster Confession of Faith:
“God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass, yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.” (III, 1)
God’s predestination is universal, encompasses all things, nothing happens that is beyond His will and His sovereignty.
“That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” (Ephesians 1:10-11)
It includes all our good works:
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)
Predestination encompasses all wicked deeds of godless men; it includes the crucifixion of Christ and all the circumstances surrounding it:
“The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.”
“Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.” (Acts 2:23)
“For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.” (Acts 4:27-28)
God is sovereign even in the face of apparently contingent events:
“And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.” (Genesis 45:7-8)
“And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” (Genesis 50:19-20)
“The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD.”
Events appear fortuitous only to those who have no understanding of the nature of God’s providential workings.
God determines the means and the end by His sovereign will:
“For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.Thy faithfulness is unto all generations: thou hast established the earth, and it abideth. They continue this day according to thine ordinances: for all are thy servants.” (Psalm 119:89-91)
“But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” (2 Thessalonians 2:13)
“According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.” (Ephesians 1:4-6)
He has set down the duration of everyone’s life:
“Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass; Turn from him, that he may rest, till he shall accomplish, as an hireling, his day.” (Job 14:5)
“LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am. Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity.” (Psalm 39:4-5)
The place of the nations is in His hands:
“And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation.” (Acts 17:26)
Of course, the godless do not stop at trying to chase God out of creation; they will then go on to attempt to remove Him altogether from the created universe. God can then have no place before men in the ordering of society, in the harnessing of nature. God has no more control over the world than do we. Even were an ounce of evolution true, then God’s sovereignty would be implicitly denied and any thought of predestination unthinkable. There can be no godly predestination without fiat creation. If God did not create the world in the way the Bible says He did, neither can He rule it, but He would be bound by it in the same way that we are.
Many object to it, but actually no one lives without it. Everyone, consciously or unconsciously, accepts some form of predestination. The real question is under what form of predestination will we choose to live? Will it be an imagined inviolable impersonal natural law that runs itself within science and history and supposedly determines all things? Or will we recognise the sovereign will of God at work in the world? Quite unlike God who is a self-conscious, self-existent person, nature, we are told, rules as blind unconscious energy. All we can hope to do is try to tame it, harness it, order it in some way. Whether in science, history, environmentalism, or in ‘laissez-faire’ economics, naturallaws are sovereign. What nature demands, it must have without questions being asked. Its brutal forces cannot be resisted. If we accept this view of reality, rejecting the rule of God, breaking His bands, casting away His cords from us (cf. Psalm 2:3), then will we find ourselves in the hands of totalitarian planning of godless élites, men playing at being god, attempting to bring order and meaning into natural chaos and to harness natural laws.
The de-personalisation of the sweep of history, its reduction to impersonal forces, biological, economic, psychological, is what leads us to meaningless and irrationality. Rebel against God and you do nothing to harm Him but only yourself. God remains untouched by all opposition. Try to be a king in the place of Christ and you will end up in the grip of the worst kind of slavery. Social order must be brought about, therefore there must be planning for society through education, health care and every other means godless rulers can think of. Man has become his own saviour, is his own god.
Predestination to the Bible orientated believer is far from being oppressive. It is a source of great strength and comfort to us. We know that nothing can befall us that is outside His perfect will and that He wills nothing but the very best for us. Every event, whether good or evil, ultimately works together for good to the Christian. He lives in harmony with the meaning and purpose that God has for this world and is actively part of it. Living within the scope of His perfect will the Christian believer will also share the ultimate triumph of his Saviour. Every event moves history one step nearer to God’s certain intended end.
“Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29-31)
We are constantly told to ‘come into the twenty-first century’ as though the culture of the times must determine the way in which history, the Gospel, and everything else is to be understood. It is as though in this new century new rules apply, and so in this way much evil is excused. True, the spirit of the age is the god of that age, but the suggestion is that the ‘spirit of the age’ is determinative and authoritative as against the plain inspired and infallible teaching of the Word of God. In passing, we need to remind ourselves that those who oppose an inerrant and infallible Bible must also balk at predestination, for the one cannot be held without the other. The God whom we know, love, honour and worship can do no other than speak infallibly. A much reduced and limited God, whose statements and works are susceptible to the vagaries of human fallibility, is one who has no real control either over the created universe or over himself. The denial of an inerrant Bible is also the denial of a sovereign God.
Those who insist that the ‘spirit of the age’ is determinative and authoritative will also say that truth is found in continual change rather than in the unchangeable Word of the immutable God. God changes with the times in what He has to say and so must the Church change, they say. The Church is thus ‘baptised’ into historical time, into the ‘truth’ of history that changes from century to century. Every age, it is said, brings a new infallible word, and even the Bible speaks differently to different people at different times, even from moment to moment. Nothing is stable, nothing is fixed.
“For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven. Thy faithfulness is unto all generations: thou hast established the earth, and it abideth. They continue this day according to thine ordinances: for all are thy servants.” (Psalm 119:89-91)
“Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” (Matthew 24:35)
According to Scripture, the ‘spirit of the age’ reaches its culmination in the great harlot State of Babylon. To her is transferred infallibility and total sovereignty. Should we chose to reject the infallible Word of God, we shall be continually faced with the infallible hand of god-rejecting human government.
“But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)
History moves from eternity to eternity; it begins and ends with God, alpha and omega. “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.” (Revelation 22:13). When God’s purposes are fully realised, time shall be no more.
“And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven, And sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time no longer.” (Revelation 10:5-6)
There is not a square inch of creation; nor is there a second of time that does not belong to God. He created them and they belong to Him. Every single thing that goes on in the world around us, every event, every social or economic circumstance, either serves God or it serves Satan through the medium of some false god. Every deed of man expresses the belief and the creed of those whose action it is. Whether it is in the education of our children, in parenting, in business, or whatever sphere of cultural life our faith in Christ or lack of it will be expressed, explicitly or implicitly. We will demonstrate whether our faith follows the teaching of Christ as revealed in Scripture, empowered by the Holy Spirit, or whether we are following Satan.
In the end, however, everything serves to further God’s purposes and no other. Nevertheless, faith divides humanity. The work of God’s grace in men’s hearts opposes the kingdom of darkness that rises up from an apostate and rebellious humanity. This all began with the enmity God has put between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent.
“And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)
Sin turns the bravest men into cowards and makes them insolent when their sin is uncovered. We read of such people every day in the newspapers, we meet them in our daily concourse with others. This is precisely what happened in Genesis. Faced with sin, the excuses flowed in torrents.
The beginning of repentance is to recognize that it is essentially against God whom we sin. After King David had taken Bathsheba, Nathan the prophet came to him and spoke to his conscience, and he repented. Although the king had so much, yet he had to take the wife of another and cause him to be killed in the process; he was both an adulterer and a murderer, both punishable in Israel by death. This is true repentance indeed! David’s words are recorded for us in Psalm 51.
“Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.”
In Eden the Tempter was not questioned by God as were Adam and Eve for he has no answer to give, there can follow no repentance for him, only perdition. The serpent may bruise the heels of men, cripple, but not destroy them. The seed of the woman, the Lord Jesus will crush the serpent’s head; He will destroy the works of the devil and the power of sin and death. The consequences of the fall into sin of our first parents have remained throughout history and the desperate struggle between the children of light and the children of darkness remains with us to this day. Would we know what is going on the world, what is happening to our nation, here it is. Sin is rooted deep within the human heart and determines everything that is done. We either live in obedience to God or remain in disobedience and apostasy so that it pervades every sphere of human life.
This great divide covers all of human life. God is sovereign over all He has made. Christ’s kingship claims all. There can be no reconciliation between Belial and Christ. This division is evident in the heart and nature of every human being born into this world. We are all born natural rebels with the wrath of God hanging over us. David continues:
“Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.” (Psalm 51:5-6)
“Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” (Ephesians 2:2-3)
At the heart of the Reformation and the revival of biblical religion at that time was the doctrine of justification by faith, reconciliation with God through faith in Christ alone. Through regeneration a man becomes a new creature in Christ, his consciousness is changed and his mind is enlightened by the Spirit of God to understand the Scriptures. We are translated “from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Colossians 1:13).
There are two kinds of people and only two: believers and unbelievers; those alive in Christ and those dead in sin. As a consequence there are two opposing approaches to all things cultural, to science, art, politics, economics and everything else that is found on earth. This antithesis is a blessing from God to preserve the world from perishing. To deny this exists is to deny that Christ is Lord of all and at work in the world. It is to suggest that there are matters of no concern to God, neutral, over which He exercises no control in one way or another. Where there has been an inward change, that change will express itself in everything single thing we do. This division or antithesis affects all of our living and thinking; it is universal, nothing is excluded. This line of division also cuts through the human personality from which even believers as yet are not exempt.
“This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” (Galatians 5:1:16-17)
Yet as Christian believers we will increasingly walk after the Spirit and less and less after the lusts of the flesh.
Beginning with Genesis, the power of the kingdom of darkness has revealed itself in the history of the world as it will continue to do so for the present. This citadel of Satan is in a constant struggle with the kingdom of Christ for dominance and the hearts and minds of men and women. This lies at the heart of a biblical view of history and in its culmination in the recognition of the true King.
“That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10-11)
It is the will of God that Christ should bring all things in heaven and on earth back to a right relation with the Father. This is an unequal battle which Satan and his minions have no possibility of winning. Politicians, rulers of men who now strut upon the world stage puffing and ranting, arrogant in their refusal to bow their necks before the law of God insisting instead upon their own ‘values’, truth and goodness in its place, they shall suffer total loss. Events will overtake them when they least expect it. Given that all things are governed by God’s eternal decree, this is a purpose that cannot and will not fail.
“And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.” (Colossians 1:20)
Everything on earth has been corrupted and disrupted by sin, including our culture and social institutions. There is a worldwide reach to redemption, the ultimate re-creation of a fallen world.
“For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” (Romans 8:20-23)
The end of our salvation is the coming of the Kingdom in its fullness, righted creation, towards which it is every Christian’s privilege to serve.
The approach of many neo-evangelical historians is little different to that of their humanist counterparts such as R. G. Collingwood who asserted that historic truth is the product of the historian’s own a priori imagination. He has painted his own picture of the past before he begins. This in turn determines what sources are used in constructing the past. The question as to the truth or otherwise of the biblical record is not a relevant one. ‘Truth’ is an irrelevance. Every generation must rewrite history in its own image. They impart to history the meaning they find most useful. The meaning of history is what they say it is. Men create truth, create meaning by fiat declaration. Such historians are and always be little better than spin doctors. BETTER IN 4? Where history has meaning time is significant, precious, to be redeemed. Where history is meaningless is ultimate, the present is all we have. Having rid themselves of a sovereign God, they now seek to sit on His throne and do so by creating the meaning they fancy. Those who have no sound understanding of the past have no good hope for the future. David Donald of Harvard History Department said in 1977 that the lessons of the past are not only irrelevant but positively dangerous.
The most significant event in human history is that of the atoning work of Christ accomplished in His death and resurrection and the birth of His Church. On the cross of Christ redemption was accomplished and Satan was defeated. The humanistic dream of a world without God was delivered its fatal blow. Babylon must indeed fall.
“For thus saith the LORD of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the LORD of hosts.”
“For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” (Habakkuk 2:14)
Those who live in rebellion against God entertain the vain hope that if He were disposed of everything they dream of would become possible. Even many who profess to be Christians mistakenly assume that those who rule the Babels of our day are those pulling the levers of power and who control the course of world history. The sweep of history is driven forward by God alone to bring about the ultimate revelation of the triumph of Christ. Our actions, on the other hand, are secondary, dependent and derivative. It is God and God alone who brings to pass that which He has already done and formed in ‘ancient times’, that is to say, even before history itself began.
“Hast thou not heard long ago, how I have done it; and of ancient times, that I have formed it? now have I brought it to pass, that thou shouldest be to lay waste defenced cities into ruinous heaps.” (Isaiah 37:26)
We cannot even take hold of the work that God accomplishes, apart from that which He has revealed for us to know in Scripture. It is in essence beyond the reach of our human understanding though we travail, though we work hard at it.
Men, however, still persist with their misguided claim of complete autonomy and self-determination.
“Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it? as if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up, or as if the staff should lift up itself, as if it were no wood.” (Isaiah 10:15)
The wooden staff does not consider itself made of wood at all or that the user has any hold over it; the axe boasts itself greater than he who uses it as does the saw; the rod shakes itself, on its own account.
“I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it. He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.”
All these are instruments made to fit the hand of the workman, to be used and controlled by God.
The apostles had travelled to Galilee as commanded by the Lord Jesus and to the mountain He stipulated. The instant they saw the risen Saviour all fell to the ground. His very presence was sufficient to bring this about. Nevertheless, some still entertained doubts in their hearts. Were they doubts as to what they were actually witnessing or was it something deeper? Had the Lord Jesus actually risen from the dead or was this a kind of apparition, a dream? The death and resurrection of Christ are central to our faith. “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14). Certainly, a dead Christ, a Saviour who did not rise bodily from the grave, could not be a Saviour for He would then be no different from any of us, but subject to the law of sin and of death (Romans 8:2).
What would happen now? How were things to continue? The Lord Jesus had died on the cross, risen from the dead, and He was about to ascend into heaven. Was this to be the end or the beginning? He then makes this astounding statement.
“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”
On the basis of this claim He gives to His disciples the commission to win men back to God: “Go ye therefore”. We need to constantly remind ourselves of the connection between these two statements, recognising the aweful power and authority lying behind the command given to the apostles. It is this power that guarantees the success of what the Lord Jesus asked His disciples to undertake; it cannot fail. The triumph of the Gospel can never for a moment be in doubt. Its victory is secured because of the One who is behind it and because of the limitless authority He possesses. Standing before this somewhat bewildered group of men is the Lord, the Messiah, the King of glory, who had already gained the victory over all His enemies by His death and resurrection. Our Saviour cannot lose. He cannot but triumph and we in Him, because His enemies are already defeated. The success of the Gospel is simply the outworking of Christ’s already accomplished victory.
This same risen, all-powerful Lord now commands the apostles to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations, to baptize them in name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and also to teach them all things He had commanded them. What is not new is that the Lord Jesus is sending out the apostles to make disciples. This He had done on a previous occasion when they were originally chosen to be apostles. They had already been chosen to follow a new and very different way of life. In order to increase the number of followers, they had been called to work in the harvest, to gather the sheep, catch fish. “And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). Also it is not the expansion of the work by the apostles continuing the works of Jesus that is particularly new. What He is saying to them is: I the risen Saviour am in corporate possession of the sovereignty of God over the whole world; I now send you into the world. This Saviour is with them to the end of the world, not leaving them for a moment. The power of the Church, the power of the people of God, rests on this as does the work of the apostles as a continuation of the work of the Lord Jesus.
He assures all present before Him that all authority, all power in heaven and in earth is given into His hands. Clearly, we are seeing something new. The position of the Lord Jesus has changed from what it had been during His earthly ministry and prior to His death and resurrection.
“Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Previously, in all things He had prayed to His Father, committing everything to Him, submitting Himself to His Father in faith for all that was necessary for Him to complete His work on earth, and God answered all His needs.
“Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. … I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.” (John 5:19 & 30)
“Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.” (John 8:28-29)
All that Jesus did in His ministry on earth He did in submission and obedience to His Father, an essential and necessary qualification for His sacrificial work on our behalf. Having died and risen again, being victorious over sin, death and Satan, He is now exalted, now at this moment sitting at the right hand of the Father (Acts 2:33). It is a changed situation from humiliation to exaltation. The power and authority He has received is not now for the accomplishment of any particular task, to forgive sins, to heal the sick, to walk on water, but the authority He now enjoys is over everything, anywhere, at any time, in heaven and on earth. He is the source of all power and authority. Our Saviour has been given full possession of the rulership of God in the world. What then remains is for this to be ‘rolled out’, as it were, in time and space, in human history, culminating in His glorious return to earth, visibly ruling and in the final destruction of all who oppose Him. What a tremendous shock that will be for all those who now oppose Him, ridicule the faith, abuse those who follow Him. This is the one event for which they are not prepared. Their garrulous mouths will at last be silenced; the unbearable nonsense they delight now to spout will finally be heard no more. What a surprise for those hypocrites who thought they knew Him, but are none of His and are cast out at the end.
The Gospel as the preaching of the Kingdom of God, that is, the preaching of the comprehensive rule of God, is the proclamation of something that was predestined for the whole world from the beginning of time. This message, found in the Old Testament, was always something that would encompass the whole world. The whole earth, the whole world, is where the Kingdom of God takes over. All the phoney kingdoms of men, all the pretensions of worldwide government by Christ-hating godless men, whilst they may prosper for a time, it is only that their fall may be the greater. They are doomed in the end to come to naught. They will all come crashing down like Nebuchadnezzar’s great image (Daniel 2). All men without exception will be forced to acknowledge the pre-eminence of Christ and...
“…that all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?” (Daniel 4:35)
Not only Jews, but Gentiles too would be included in this kingdom. Yet because of their disobedience Israel would be set to one side for a time (cf. Romans 11). Already, John the Baptist had seen that in the place of the sons of Abraham, non-Israelites would take over and Jesus too prophesied this.
“And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth”
Not alone the Jews of the diaspora, but also a people chosen out of all peoples shall at the end of days shall be gathered from all the ends of the earth.
“And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:31)
In His parables Jesus expresses this same idea more than once (see Matthew 13:37-43, 47-50).
Jesus Himself had taught Israel and did not concede that during His ministry was the time yet come for the heathen to be offered the Bread of Life (Matthew 15:24). However, now the task of the conversion of the nations was given to the Apostles. They are the light of the world, the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13-16). Without this Jesus could not be recognised as the Servant of God; this was the Man set to be a light to the heathen.
“And now, saith the LORD that formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the LORD, and my God shall be my strength. And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.”
“Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32)
“For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth. And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” (Acts 2:47-48)
Christ is even now absolute sovereign possessing all authority. He is the source of all power and all authority everywhere in heaven and earth. We go forward on the basis of His power and authority and in no other. We are to “teach all nations”, no exception – to whom? What? – “whatsoever I have commanded you”. This is to be our position throughout this age: “I am with you even unto the end of the world.” Christ our Saviour possesses absolute sovereign authority and is therefore the source and origin of all authority on earth and in heaven. All human authorities are thus limited and delegated – dependent upon Him, “the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will” (Daniel 4:32). Let none imagine he derives his authority from anywhere else. All sovereignties are gathered together, united in Him within the unfolding purpose of God. It will climax in the redemption of the whole created world and the destruction of all that is evil and against God.
All who bear authority within society owe their position to Christ who has given them their powers. Parents receive the authority over their children directly from Christ Himself, not from the State as so many humanists suppose, this is to usurp the role of God. Governments receive from Christ a delegated and strictly limited authority. They do not possess universal powers. Nor is this power received from the will of the people as democrats suppose (Romans 13:1-6). Governments are instituted because of human sinfulness, to curb the deeds of wicked men and encourage the deeds of good. They are answerable in the first instance to God rather than to those who put them there. No human, earthly institution possesses comprehensive powers nor can it exercise totalitarian authority over men. Only Christ has such all-inclusive authority.
“For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.”
All power, all authority, being now given into Christ’s hands, opposition to that power on whatever level is clearly godless. There is no sphere of life where the authority of Christ is not valid and active. Those who oppose such authority oppose Christ. The power exercised by rulers and magistrates, for example, comes from a delegated authority. This power is not demonic or evil as has been suggested by theologians, men such as Emil Brunner in The Divine Imperative. This is not to deny that godless men invariably misinterpret, misuse and abuse the power given into their hands. Parents too may use the power they have for good or evil, dedicate all to God or to a false god.
The fall as recorded in Genesis affected the whole of creation, so redemption includes all creation not alone individual salvation. This power is linked to the doctrine of creation of the world by God. To take away creation is to take away God’s power for without creation no proper concept of His power is possible, nor can we appreciate the full extent of redemption. In creation God revealed Himself as Creator in fullness of power. There can be no limits placed on God’s power and sovereignty by which He made the world. All things are possible, nothing is too hard for the Lord.
“Is any thing too hard for the LORD?” (Genesis 18:14)
“Ah Lord GOD! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee” (Jeremiah 32:17)
“And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.” (Mark 10:27)
Genuine Christian believers make up a closely-knit community, a people with a style of living and a culture all its own. They do not seek unity but are already united as one body of Christ. Indeed, it is not possible to be a Christian believer and not be united with every other believer. To deny this unity is to deny we are Christ’s. Believers are one, even as the Father and Son are one, one in Him that the world may believe that God sent the Lord Jesus (John 17:21). Those who seek to be united imply an existing disunity, otherwise why would they seek unity? The true people of God are already one in Christ else they are not in Christ. If we are in Christ then we are all one in Christ with each other. It cannot be otherwise. To be anything other than united one with another is to be outside Christ. The body of Christ, the people of God, are a united body of those who profess that they with body and soul, both in life and in death, are not their own but belong to their faithful Saviour, who has with His own dear blood has fully paid for their sins and redeemed them from the power of Satan and has so given that without the will of their Father in Heaven not a hair of their head can fall (from Heidelberg Catechism). This is not the description of a universal ecclesiastical institution. Such are invariably divided, disunited, denying the Lord from heaven. The Lord Himself has placed all that is necessary among His people for the building up of that Body. Each and every member functions to this end and to the glory of Christ. “So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another” (Romans 12:5).
There is but one Church and outside this Church there is no salvation. There are not two Churches, the visible and invisible, the local and universal. There is but one Church because Christ is one and He has one body. This one Church of Christ comprises all the elect, all the redeemed for whom Christ died at all times. The complete ‘membership roll’ of this Church is known only to God. We cannot decide, nor be invited to ‘join’ this Church but we are added to it by the Lord (Acts 2:47). Those who believe will seek the fellowship of each other whilst here on earth. These outward congregations are the visible and temporal manifestation of the Body of Christ in as much as they are true believers. They are sometimes called ‘Churches’ in Scripture. There will inevitably be those who attach themselves to local congregations of believers who are hypocrites having no saving faith, but they are not members of the Church of Christ in any sense. There can be no ‘half-way’ membership, you are in or you are out.
This understanding of the Church of Christ is found in the writings and practices of many Puritans, both in England and the American colonies. They recognised that they could not create perfect local congregations, something of which they have been accused of attempting. This tendency did develop later in those congregations affected by the ‘Great Awakening’, when a public confession of faith was replaced by a subjective examination of experience. It was otherwise generally acknowledged that unavoidably false brethren would mingle with the true. Whilst it was possible to refuse those not demonstrating a credible testimony in their lives as well as their profession of the faith, they sought not perfection, but for a godly order in the professing Church of Christ. Any civil or ecclesiastical institution claiming to embody the Kingdom of God reveals itself, in Puritan eyes at least, as a beast of the Apocalypse.
John Cotton in his “Exposition upon the Thirteenth Chapter of the Revelation” of1656 shows himself to be quite hostile to European churches and to their establishments, to Rome particularly, but also and quite strongly to many Protestant groups. He writes: “We believe the catholic Church is invisible; we believe no visible Church, but congregations.” As far asCotton was concerned, and most Puritans with him, the beasts of Revelation 13 represented a visible world state and a visible world Church; both were anathema to him.
On the other hand, Bishop J. C. Ryle’s remarks are also a much-needed reminder for our day when understanding the true nature of the Christian Church has been undermined by a sectarian insistence, unduly emphasising its external or outward expression:
“I believe that to have clear ideas about the Church is of the first importance in the present day. I believe that mistakes on this point are one grand cause of the religious delusions into which so many fall. I wish to direct attention to that great primary meaning in which the word Church is used in the New Testament, and to clear the subject of that misty vagueness by which it is surrounded in so many minds. …
Where is the Church? What are the marks by which this Church may be known? This is the grand question.
The one true Church is well described in the Communion Service of England, as “the mystical body of Christ, which is the blessed company of all faithful people.” It is made up of all God’s elect, of all converted men and women, of all true Christians. In whomsoever we can discern the election of God the Father, the sprinkling of the blood of God the Son, the sanctifying work of God the Spirit, in that person we see a member of Christ’s true Church.
It is a Church of which all the members have the same marks. They are all born again of the Spirit. They all possess “repentance towards God, faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ,” and holiness of life and conversation. They all hate sin, and they all love Christ.” (in THE CHURCH - what is it?)
Martin Luther also gives an excellent description of the Christian Church.
“Those who have and believe the Gospel are in Christ’s body, the Church (Ps,101:2). Unbelievers, even though they put on a ‘right and believing face’ are not and cannot be members of His body, but are rejected because of their rejection of His Gospel. The Church is a spiritual unity, or spiritual assembly. It is a holy, not a secular, kingdom – holy because of Christ’ merits, which are imputed to it (Ps 111:1; 114:2).” (Eugene F. A. Klug ‘Luther’s Understanding of ‘Church’, in Concordia Theological Quarterly, Volume 44 Number 1 January 1980 p.27)
“I believe that there is one holy Christian Church on earth, that is, the community or number or assembly of all Christians in all the world, the one bride of Christ, and his spiritual body of which He is the only Head. … In this Christian Church, wherever it exists, is to be found the forgiveness of sins, that is, a kingdom of grace and of true pardon. … Moreover, Christ and His Spirit are there. Outside this Christian Church there is no salvation, or forgiveness of sins, but everlasting death and damnation.” (Luther’s Works, vol. 37, p. 367-368, Concordia edition)
Here Luther is not thinking of individual congregations among which he anticipated there would be unbelievers and hypocrites. Nor does he have in mind any larger Church groupings such as Roman, Greek or Lutheran. What he has in mind is the one bride of Christ, His spiritual body, of which He is the head of “the holy believers and lambs who hear the voice of their Shepherd” (Smalcald Articles  III:XII).
At the heart of the Christian Gospel, restored and revived to its rightful place at the Reformation is the doctrine of justification by faith in Christ alone, in His merits alone and not our own works. It is a teaching now coming under attack, being modified or denied by some who previously confessed it including numerous evangelicals. The biblical name for this drift is apostasy. The teaching of justification by faith, or being declared righteous before God, in turn rests firmly on a biblical understanding of the doctrine of predestination, and with no predestination there can be no sure salvation. Were Christians not elect, not predestined to faith, then it would be quite impossible for anyone to believe, for nothing happens outside the perfect will of God. Were Christ not “the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8), there could be no sure promise of salvation.
Martin Luther was foremost among the Reformers in restoring justification by faith to its proper place in biblical preaching and teaching and he wrote this:
“For if you doubt, or disdain to know that God foreknows and wills all things, not contingently, but necessarily and immutably, how can you believe confidently, trust to, and depend upon His promises? For when He promises, it is necessary that you should be certain that He knows, is able, and willing to perform what He promises; otherwise, you will neither hold Him true nor faithful; which is unbelief, the greatest of wickedness, and a denying of the Most High God! And how can you be certain and secure, unless you are persuaded that He knows and wills certainly, infallibly, immutably, and necessarily, and will perform what He promises? Nor ought we to be certain only that God wills necessarily and immutably, and will perform, but also to glory in the same; as Paul, (Romans 3:4) “Let God be true, but every man a liar.” And again, “For the word of God is not without effect.” (Romans 9:6) And in another place, “The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are His.” (2 Timothy 2:19) And, “Which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.” (Titus 1:2) And, “He that cometh, must believe that God is, and that He is a rewarder of them that hope in Him.” (Hebrews 11: 6). If, therefore, we are taught, and if we believe, that we ought not to know the necessary prescience of God, and the necessity of the things that are to take place, Christian faith is utterly destroyed, and the promises of God and the whole Gospel entirely fall to the ground; for the greatest and only consolation of Christians in their adversities, is the knowing that God lies not, but does all things immutably, and that His will cannot be resisted, changed, or hindered. (Bondage of the Will, Section XII. ‘The Sovereignty of God’)
All the Reformers emphasized the uniqueness of the elect. By God’s grace believers are called out and set apart from the mass of humanity. Being aware and convinced of their own salvation, they then set out to live for the glory of God. This consciousness of being called out is of enormous significance. Christian believers are the leaven in the lump, the mustard seed that grows to become the greatest among the herbs. It is this that humanists so hate. It destroys their wild dreams of total democracy. For their part, they seek a paradise regained but without God. True Christian faith and total democracy are deadly enemies: one or the other must die. Godless men fear the absolute law or justice of God, a final and authoritative Word of God. They understand that this undoes their much sought after democracy because it separates humanity as godly or wicked, saved or lost, good or evil, because in their eyes it thus creates a ‘spiritual aristocracy’.
“I cannot understand how any realisation of the democratic ideal as a vital moral and spiritual ideal in human affairs is possible without surrender of the conception of the basic division to which supernatural Christianity is committed.” John Dewey, “A Common Faith” (p.84)
In this topsy-turvy world of total democracy no distinctions are to be made. There is no sin and there are no sinners; there is no evil and there are no evil-doers. Prisons that punish and condemn non-existent evil acts must be replaced with institutions that facilitate mental and social rehabilitation.
However, humanity is not democratic, is not all on one level. Rather it is separated into two: those upon whom the wrath of God remains and on the other hand those washed clean by the shed blood of Christ to stand before God in their Saviour’s righteousness and not their own, who through the gift of faith are saved. Genuine believers, because they are conscious of being the elect of God are equally conscious of being at the centre of God’s predetermined purposes for the world He created.
It is with this God with whom we have to do. There is little point of a God whom we cannot know or whose purposes we cannot know or to whom we cannot submit. John Calvin wrote:
“What avails it, in short, to know a God with whom we have nothing to do? The effect of our knowledge rather ought to be, first, to teach us reverence and fear; and, secondly, to induce us, under its guidance and teaching, to ask every good thing from him, and, when it is received, ascribe it to him. For how can the idea of God enter your mind without instantly giving rise to the thought, that since you are his workmanship, you are bound, by the very law of creation, to submit to his authority?” (Institutes of Religion I, II, 3)
We shall be ruled by laws of nature or by God’s predestined purpose and there are some very significant differences. If it is possible to any degree that man can be born anew by nature, then he remains passive with respect to nature for it is nature that works upon him and he will be active towards God initiating any relationship with Him. He can then be reconciled to God in his own strength. However, the Bible tells us as believers we “…were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13). This makes a huge difference for now the tables are turned. The reality is that God created us and we are born again by the will of God and not of our own will. In this case, we are not under the heel of natural laws but active towards nature and as God’s image bearers we become meaningful participants in history and the unfolding purposes of God. Humanists believe that we are passive towards nature, conditioned by it, predestined by it. This explains the ‘what is, is right’ brand of morality – without feeling, impersonal. Impersonal natural laws make us what we are. This too explains the emphasis upon environmental issues; the absorption with a behaviouristic methodology in education. We are what the environment and others around us make us. The American philosopher, John Dewey, maintained that an individual can have no real meaning or existence apart from the rest of society. Like it or not, he says, no one can exclude him or herself from the humanist State. It demands of us all unquestioning subjugation of the individual to its will.
The further men move away from God, the more they put themselves into the way of the unfeeling, impersonal, amoral passivity of nature. The godless humanist State sees it as its duty because we are all passive towards nature to subject us to total conditioning, in order to bring order to chaos. The truth is that all men are the slaves not of nature, but of sin and are subject to death. The godless are not at peace with God, but nor with their fellowmen or with themselves. If a man finds himself in bondage to a godless State it is because he has been deceived into thinking he is passive towards nature, in its inescapable grip, and so must submit to unending social conditioning to find salvation. However, what he really is, is a sinner reaping what he has sown.
Those who believe that man’s will decides, that man’s will decides eternal destiny, that man’s will acts upon decisions that belong to God alone, have given way to a kind of spiritual alchemy. Only magicians and sorcerers imagine they can control and govern the supernatural by natural means. Those who think they can determine eternal matters by acting upon God, by exercising their own will are engaging in spiritual sorcery. It cannot be done.
“Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.” (John 15:16)
We are not under nature and above God. The believer is under God and consequently above nature, a ruler able to work upon it and have a real effect in history, to carve out a meaningful existence in God’s created world. All who deny God, His Word, His sovereignty, lay themselves open to the tyranny of men in the form of an oppressive State that increasingly takes to itself the role of God. The unbeliever sees meaning and victory only in the total control of all things. The Christian believer discerns meaning in the Messianic purpose of history. God alone governs totally. We therefore submit not to the State, not to nature, to avoid the chaos, but we submit to God to act upon nature in co-operation with Him in line with His purpose and will as revealed in Scripture.
It is most certainly true “that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22) and that we have not yet seen the end of bitter persecution of the people of God. However, we must not be so absorbed with our trials that we surrender up what lies beyond them, the irresistible triumph of the purposes of God in Christ and the Gospel. We ought rather to echo the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 8:31: “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?”
History is the work of God; from Him it derives unity and meaning. We have not the luxury of being spectators. We are taken up by God in continuing cooperation in His plan and purpose. For us there is no dead history and no flight from history. We need today more than ever to catch something of the spirit that motivated men like the Reformers and the early Puritans, restoring a vision of the ultimate triumph of the Gospel over all the enemies of Christ. So many who profess faith in Christ now preach a Gospel that walks hand-in-hand with worldly presuppositions and assumptions. They have either embraced a false hope that defies realisation or they have given history over to the devil, surrendering and compromising the faith.
And though this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us;
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us.
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:58) Richard Baxter (1615 -1691) in the Christian Directory writes: “It is action that God is most served and honoured by”.
Time is not the primary determining factor in reality. Time can only be understood in terms of eternity, that is, of God Himself. Without the certainty of God’s eternal purpose, there can be no comfort in persecution knowing that Christ shall prevail. Underlying all assurance of victory in a time of trial is the sure knowledge that God created this world and that victory is secure. The vigour and activism that is so characteristic of the protestant and reformed faith rests on the creating power of God and His sovereignty. Take these away and faith is totally undermined. We enter the Kingdom by God’s grace and then work towards its final victory knowing that its triumph is certain. We do not retreat from the world. We are separate from it though in it.
“If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” (John 15:18-19)
Someone recently remarked that the present period of history is dominated by “political thugs and vultures feeding on the carcass of civilisation”. We are not given to such despair: We who believe are ‘in Christ’ as part of His Body and taken up with God’s will ending in the triumph of Christ. Biblical history traces the triumph of our Saviour. We are all in Him destined to a glorious end. The whole creation groans and travails for the fullness of the glorious liberty of the Sons of God.
“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” (Romans 8:18-23)
This is the fulfilment of all that God intended in creation. The Gospel, the purposes of God cannot fail. It is the height of foolishness to suggest that anything God undertakes or initiates is likely to end in failure. All must end in the triumph of the people of God, not their failure. Creation cannot fail but lead to the manifestation of a God-glorifying order to the four corners of the world at the return of Christ. The glory of what lies before helps us to bear the perils, trials, intense tribulation and persecution we must yet pass through. God made this world wholly good, sin is a perversion. The goal of history is the restoration of all things.
“Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” (Acts 3:19-21)
When one day we rejoice at the ‘marriage supper of the Lamb’, history will have reached its culmination.