FORGET NONE OF HIS BENEFITS
volume 19, number 35, August 20, 2020
“For the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Those of us involved in beginning Vanguard Presbytery are being called radicals by some people. What is a radical? The word radical is from the Latin word radix which means root. In other words, quite literally a radical is one who goes back to the root of something, back to the origin of an idea, concept, or way of life. Okay then, by definition I guess we are radicals.
Church history is replete with examples of theologians, pastors, authors, and educators who began well, embracing full fidelity to the inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy of the Scriptures but who, nonetheless, in due time fell away from simple and pure devotion to Christ. Indwelling and original sin have a powerful and sometimes subtle way of gaining control over God’s people. That’s why the writer to the Hebrews exhorts us to encourage one another day after day as long as it is still called today, lest any of us be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Heb.3:13). One way in which sin deceives people is to convince them that the Bible is not enough, that we must have psychotherapy, sociology, or the words of men to augment Scripture. Have you noticed how people will cite their favorite author as the final authority on some matter and people are impressed; but when Scripture is quoted or cited people are non-plussed? The author’s words seem to carry more weight than the words of the Bible.
A fatal flaw in some Presbyterian denomination’s polity (church government) is using only their Book of Church Orders and the Westminster Confession of Faith as their final authority. They have failed to include the Bible in the doctrinal standards. Vanguard Presbytery unequivocally makes the Bible, the Westminster Confession of Faith, and our Book of Church Order as our governing authority. We embrace tergum est fons (back to the source).
But why tergum est fons? Consider this wonderful commentary on Hebrews 4:12 from the great 18th century commentator Matthew Henry. This is really beautiful.
The word of God is quick and powerful, v. 12. By the word of God we may understand either the essential or the written word: the essential Word, that in the beginning was with God, and was God (Jn. 1:1 ), the Lord Jesus Christ, and indeed what is said in this verse is true concerning him; but most understand it of the written word, the holy scriptures, which are the word of God. Now of this word it is said, (1.) That is quick; it is very lively and active, in all its efforts, in seizing the conscience of the sinner, in cutting him to the heart, and in comforting him and binding up the wounds of the soul. Those know not the word of God who call it a dead letter; it is quick, compared to the light, and nothing quicker than the light; it is not only quick, but quickening; it is a vital light; it is a living word. Saints die, and sinners die; but the word of God lives. All flesh is grass, and all the glory thereof as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away, but the word of the Lord endureth for ever, 1 Pt. 1:24, 1 Pt. 1:25 . Your fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live for ever? But my words, which I commanded the prophets, did they not take hold of your fathers? Zec. 1:5, Zec. 1:6 . (2.) It is powerful. When God sets it home by his Spirit, it convinces powerfully, converts powerfully, and comforts powerfully. It is so powerful as to pull down strong holds (2 Co. 10:4, 2 Co. 10:5 ), to raise the dead, to make the deaf to hear, the blind to see, the dumb to speak, and the lame to walk. It is powerful to batter down Satan’s kingdom, and to set up the kingdom of Christ upon the ruins thereof. (3.) It is sharper than any two-edged sword; it cuts both ways; it is the sword of the Spirit, Eph. 6:17 . It is the two-edged sword that cometh out of the mouth of Christ, Rev. 1:16 . It is sharper than any two-edged sword, for it will enter where no other sword can, and make a more critical dissection: it pierces to the dividing asunder of the soul and the spirit, the soul and its habitual prevailing temper; it makes a soul that has been a long time of a proud spirit to be humble, of a perverse spirit to be meek and obedient. Those sinful habits that have become as it were natural to the soul, and rooted deeply in it, and become in a manner one with it, are separated and cut off by this sword. It cuts off ignorance from the understanding, rebellion from the will, and enmity from the mind, which, when carnal, is enmity itself against God. This sword divides between the joints and the marrow, the most secret, close, and intimate parts of the body; this sword can cut off the lusts of the flesh as well as the lusts of the mind, and make men willing to undergo the sharpest operation for the mortifying of sin. (4.) It is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart, even the most secret and remote thoughts and designs. It will discover to men the variety of their thoughts and purposes, the vileness of them, the bad principles they are actuated by, the sinister and sinful ends they act to. The word will turn the inside of a sinner out, and let him see all that is in his heart. Now such a word as this must needs be a great help to our faith and obedience.
We are all prone to wander toward accommodation to the culture around us. So we tend to accommodate the feelings of people on the hot button issues of the day—creation versus evolution, women in the church, Black Lives Matter, Side B Homosexuality, White Privilege, etc. From there we accommodate new language. The statement Black Lives Matter is a great example. This is a very powerful statement which can be taken in at least two ways. As a declarative statement, “Black lives matter,” all of us would certainly agree. Indeed black lives do matter because black people, as all people, are made in the image of God and thus have dignity and ought to be protected from injustice. However Black Lives Matter as a movement cannot, should not be embraced by any Christian. The Marxist ideology of the movement is well documented. From there we accommodate new views and try our best to align them with Scripture. Those who support Side B homosexuality are saying that one need not be concerned about having a sexual attraction of someone from the same sex as long as he or she does not act upon it. This is a clear violation of Scripture (Gal.5:16). From there it is not long before we accommodate a new morality which is contrary to Scripture and we don’t even notice it. We must be tergum est fons. We must always go back to the Bible. As the Scriptures are applied and obeyed through the work of the Holy Spirit, they are powerful, effectual, convicting, converting, and instructional in promoting Biblical holiness. Know the word of God and obey the word of God.
1. Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, volume 6, page 906.