And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten's sake. --Genesis 18:32
God is at least as merciful to the world in the age of Jesus Christ as He was in the days of the patriarchs. If there had been ten righteous souls in Sodom, God would have saved the city. As it was, there seemed to be only one righteous soul, Lot, and God took him and his wife and daughters out of the city before the fire and brimstone fell.
The God who preserved Nineveh because of sixty thousand infants or fools (Jonah 4:11) will surely regard His people in modern nations. He has appointed sufferings for those who believe in Christ, but His yoke is easy and His burden is light. The lot of the wicked is a hard one, but the death of the righteous is precious in the eyes of the Lord.
Just as a cluster is not destroyed because there is new wine in it (Isaiah 65:8), so the Lord preserves whole nations for the sake of the new wine within them. Although the servants wished to root up the tares, the Lord said that the angels would make the separation at the end of the world, and they must grow up together until then. (Matthew 13).
The entire human race, the descendants of Adam, was preserved because God had promised to save His people by sending His Only Begotten Son to die for their sins. His first work is mercy and grace. Judgment will come in God’s time, but He is not in a hurry about it. He has works of mercy to do.
Therefore God’s people must not be discouraged, though their number be small and though wolves ravish the sheep. Their witness is not in vain if their salt has not lost its saltiness.
“In transgressing and lying against the Lord, and departing away from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood. And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.” --Isaiah 59:14,15.
The courts did not seem to be in touch. Innocent people were victims of violent crime. Often the courts were corrupt and allowed the guilty to go free. Government officials were corrupt and lining their own pockets. The courts were filled with empty arguments and lying tongues. Lawlessness was everywhere.
This was Israel in the days of Isaiah, who diagnosed the problem: the carcass of truth blocked the street, so equity could not pass.
I. The root meaning of “Equity” is “straightforwardness,” or “integrity.” Another form of the word describes the walk of a righteous man (Isaiah 57:2). In Proverbs 8:9 the words of wisdom are “plain” to those with understanding. When Israel no longer wanted to hear the truth, they wished the prophets to prophesy smooth things of deceit, not “right,” straightforward things (Isaiah 30:10).
The Bible teaches that there is a “plain” way: a simple, right, and honest way for a man to treat his God and his neighbor. This simple, right way is written in the hearts of every man, in his very nature, so that he is without excuse. The Apostle Paul said that this law is even written on the hearts of those who have never heard of the Bible (Romans 2:13-16). In their wickedness, men are able to corrupt this law, and some may even succeed in “searing their conscience as with a hot iron” (I Timothy 4:2), but they can never entirely erase it, and it will rise up to judge them in the last day. The pure form of this “law of nature” was given in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20), and its summary is true love for God and our neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40). This law shows that man is a moral being and is accountable to God and to his neighbor for his actions. The humanist must deny this law of God.
II. In Christian nations, the legal system reflected this law of equity. In England, equity courts originated in the legal system established after 1066 by William of Normandy. They were “courts of conscience,” administered by the king’s chancellor, a clergyman. (Smith, Chester H., Smith’s Review of Equity,” West Publishing Co., St. Paul, Minn., 1958. p. 9) Until this century, courts of equity were part of the American judicial system. Webster defines equity:
“Justice according to nature law of right,” or “a system of law originating in the English chancery and comprising a settle and formal body of legal of procedural rules and doctrines that supplement, aid, or override common and statue law and are designed to protect rights and enforce duties fixed by substantive law.”
A “substantive” right or duty is one that exists for its own sake and rests in natural law. For instance, a man has no right to endanger life by shooting a gun at a passing train, even if there is no specific statute forbidding it, or a decision in common law to cover that case. He is expected to know that such actions are wrong. Such an expectation is becoming rarer and rarer in schools, in public, and in government. Naughty impudent children become naughty impudent and brazen men and women.
Reasonable men want their courts to be upright, to dispense honest and fair decisions. Equity courts held a man responsible to behave in a right way toward his neighbor’s life, property, and reputation and were an attempt toward responsible, fair judicatories. The very existence of these courts testified to rights and law that were above the statute and common law, and tended to affect decisions in the other courts. Jefferson’s allusion to the “laws of nature,” and of “nature’s God” in the Declaration of Independence is within the scope of this Christian heritage.
A number of years ago courts of equity were abolished in America, and combined with the regular system of courts. The result is that equity is usually ignored in modern courts. One lawyer told me that judges do not want to stick their necks out; they want to base their decisions on statute law or common-law decisions. This is understandable in present law theory where there is no recognition of natural law proceeding from the God who created us all. Understandable, but irresponsible, and something very precious was lost in our courts when courts of equity were abolished. An exception to this was Brown, which ended segregation in public schools, the most famous equity decision in the history of America. No remedy could be found in common or statute law, so recourse was made to the idea that it was essentially unfair to deny basic rights to any of our citizens on the basis of race. One problem in this decision, however, was that it was based on the subjectivism of the judges, not on natural law. It was widely supported, and rightly so, because the decision met the approval of the consciences of the majority of the American people.
III. Natural law presupposes a Creator, and that’s the rub, in Hamlet’s phrase. Modern man hates God and His law. He wants to live in a relativistic world, so that he can justify abortion, sodomy, confiscatory taxation, fornication, pornography, and reap the income that comes from them. He sees himself as a victim in an impersonal world; not as a responsible man under God.
In spite of this God is the Creator and Judge of the earth. This is the truth that lies in the street and blocks equity’s way. The Christians who compromised with atheistic evolution in the public schools did not realize that this undermined a court system based on equity and natural law, turning loose a flood of lawlessness, criminal government and viciousness. But they did know what the Bible said, so they were without excuse, just as we are if we do not work to have the general law of equity, created by God, recognized as the basis for our law. This general law recognizes that all men are to live at peace with one another and seek the good of all men. This is not an emotion, but objectified in the Ten Commandments.
It was so bad in Israel that God “wondered” that there was no man, no intercessor, to plead Israel’s case 9Isaiah 59:15-17). It displeased Him that there was no justice. So He took charge Himself. He “put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation upon his head…” vengeance for clothing, …and zeal as a cloke” (Isaiah 59:17. When Jesus Christ, the Son of God appeared, He put things to right, and the wicked will not escape His righteous and holy government. The wicked do not like nor approve of God’s intervention, but they are scattered like the chaff before the wind.
That’s the Truth
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. I John 4:1-3
Presumably, the Holy Spirit was saying something meaningful when he had John pen the words, “Every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God.”
Do words mean something? Is it possible to convey truth by means of words? John (and the Holy Spirit) evidently thought so, for they call the church to examine spirits by means of the words.
Satan resists confession, for he uses words differently from God. Satan hates the wisdom and truth of God and denies that words confess truth. “God didn’t mean you will die,” he told Eve. Satan uses words to manipulate people away from the truth of God. God told Adam and Eve one time that if they ate the Tree in the midst of the Garden, they would die.
Nowadays the devil tells folks that the story of Adam and Eve is a “literary device” – that the whole first chapter of Genesis was a literary device, and that the days of creation did not happen that way. This would have been too transparent for Adam and Eve, and the devil was too subtle and clever to get caught in a lie like that in those days. Adam and Eve knew better—they knew that they were real and that God had spoken to them. So the devil did not question THAT God had spoken, he simply tried to twist God’s words and deny the truth of them. In fact, he accused God of using words to manipulate, just as the devil does. (Gen. 3:5)
The test by which the prophets of God are known and evil prophets are revealed is in the phrase written by John: “Every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God.”
I. There are evil spirits, and they try to turn people away from the truth. They use people to spread their message. “There are many false prophets gone out into the world,” is the way John puts it. There is a real and present danger to people because of these false prophets. They do not come from God, but from another spirit, the devil, who is also called Appolyon, or the Destroyer, according to Rev. 9:10. Those who listen to them do not follow God or Jesus Christ and do not have salvation, but are destroyed.
II. These false prophets are not willing to confess the truth concerning Jesus Christ. They may speak of Christ. They may profess to love Jesus, but they deny the truth concerning Him. They imagine another sort of Jesus Christ than the One who is revealed by the Apostles, including Paul. Every word of the statement concerning Jesus Christ is important in John’s test of orthodoxy. They are just as important for us today as they were in the day John wrote them.
III. What are the words that John uses? What is the doctrine that false prophets reject and show themselves to be Antichrist? “Jesus Christ is come in the flesh” is the formula. To reject the meaning of these words is to be lost and alienated from God. These are the words, with their meaning:
A. “Jesus.” A name is used to identify a particular person. The person that John is speaking of is Jesus of Nazarus, who was born of Mary in Bethlehem, according to the Gospels. If this is not the meaning of what John wrote, then words mean nothing at all.
B. “Christ” This name was rich in the hopes and expectation of the Old Testament. The word “Christ” is the Greek word for “anointed” and corresponds to the Hebrew word for “Messiah.” John is simply affirming that Jesus of Nazarus was the Messiah promised to Adam, to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and throughout the Old Testament.
C. “Is come.” Come from where? One cannot “Come” unless He existed elsewhere, and this is simply the truth that John teaches throughout his writings. He is saying that the Christ, who is Jesus of Nazarus, is the pre-existent Wisdom and Word of God, the Son of God, who was with God and who was God in the beginning, as John affirms in Chapter One of his Gospel. Saint Paul said that He is the “Lord of Glory” (I Cor. 2:8). Jesus Himself speaks of the glory that He had with the Father before the world was (John 17:5).
D. “In the Flesh,” simply means that the Son, who was with the Father before the world was, really became a true man in history. It is not a parable, nor an allegory, but a wonderful, incomprehensible mystery. God Himself came in the flesh, in the Person of the Son of God, to fulfill the covenant that God had made with Abraham.
God had promised Abraham that He, God, would fulfill the covenant Himself. In accordance with the way covenants were made in old times, animals were divided and the parties passed between the parts. But in the case with the covenant with Abraham, only God passed between the parts, signifying that He alone would be surety for the covenant. (See Genesis 15 and Isaiah 59).
Through faith Abraham became the heir of the world (Rom. 4:13), receiving through the Promise that which Adam had lost by his sin. This Promise is fulfilled in Christ (Galatians 3:29). The essence of the Promise was that God would take His elect unto Himself and be their God, would freely forgive their sins, would give them His Spirit, would write His law upon the hearts of His people, preserve them through the sufferings of this present life, and take them to eternal glory and blessing when their sufferings are past. The zeal of God Himself would accomplish these things.
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. --Galatians 2:20
Paul is speaking historically, with a subjective application. It was a historical fact that Christ’s death was in the place of every one of His people. This is the very heart of the Gospel, the power of God unto salvation. To be saved a person must agree with the verdict of God the Father at the Cross. Sin is an outrageous offense against the righteousness of God, deserving of the wrath of God. This is the beginning of faith, the fear of the Lord, and the vindication of His word.
Because saving faith is the work of the Holy Spirit, we are united to Jesus Christ in His resurrected life. Being united with Jesus Christ, we live in Him in two ways: He governs us by the Spirit and makes us partakers of His righteousness. The latter is justification; the first is regeneration. The new life that we have in Christ is one of faith, according to the Apostle. Because faith is by the word of God and not of the flesh, this life is a “secret hidden from the senses of man,” according to Calvin.
The touchstone of faith is the Scriptures. Our faith is not validated by experience, by emotion, by answers to prayers, by providences, or by any human reasoning or philosophies. The operative question is, “Is what I call faith that which is described in the Bible?”
“Search the scriptures,” Jesus said, “for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” --John 5:39 The men of Israel thought they had eternal life because they read the Scriptures, but they read for the wrong reasons and did not know that the Scriptures are about Jesus Christ. It is interesting that Jesus did not direct them away from the Scriptures to some experience or some drum beating, but to the Scriptures which they misused and corrupted.
He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. I John 5:10-12
The life is in Jesus Christ and it is not optional whether we believe the record that God has given of His Son. We do not believe in Jesus Christ if we do not believe the record that God gave of His Son. What? Is God a liar when He says that He makes His Son an offering for sin? What? Is God a deceiver when He tells us that our righteousnesses are as filthy rags and that we must be clothed in the righteousness of Christ? Does the way to salvation begin with making God a liar?
Try the mission site on the web for the Front Range mission of the Reformed Church in the United States: www.rcuscolorado.faithweb.com