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What Place Should Deliverance Occupy in Preaching?
A few months ago we wrote an article about the place that misery should receive in preaching. It is self-evident that in a subsequent article we should write about the place deliverance should receive in preaching.
The word “deliverance” means the act of delivering or state of being delivered, liberated, or rescued. Of course, we are not speaking of a natural deliverance but about the spiritual life of God’s people.
When we wrote about misery, then we emphasized that this must be shown to us by Word and Spirit to really know our condition. After the discovering work of the Spirit, we find sorrow in the heart of such a person. He becomes unhappy because he learns that he has sinned against all of God’s commandments which in turn require his death. We have said this knowledge of misery is necessary. Why? Because otherwise there would be no need for deliverance where the great work of the Spirit is to glorify Christ in the heart of a poor sinner. How is this experienced in the life of a Christian? We will try to tell something of this and also point to the dangers which there are.
A discovered sinner does not just sit back but will try to make up for his debt before God. But this is all in vain. Our best works are unclean before God. The debt does not decrease, but increases daily. What must be done? The answer can be found in the Holy Scriptures. Time and again it is emphasized that God has thought out a way by which sinners can be reconciled with Him: “Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness” (Isa. 1:27). It is one of the deepest, most adorable truths that God justifies the wicked. Jesus did not come to call the righteous, but sinners. To know the preciousness, the suitableness, and the necessity of Christ, we have to be shown our deep corruption, our state of death by our fall.
In theory we agree with this doctrine because it is our upbringing, but in the practice of daily life we don’t take this too seriously. When we read about wicked people, we think immediately of criminals in prison or of people who live in all kinds of sin, such as drug users or drunkards. If we look upon ourselves as being respectable and religious people, then I fear we have never looked in our deceitful heart which is a pool of all kinds of sin and misery. Misery, the missing of God, and to become an ungodly person is really experienced by God’s people. This does not mean they are living in all kinds of public sins, but by the discovering work of the Holy Spirit they find out what they really are before God. No, it is not only misery. God teaches His discovered people to call out of their misery for deliverance.
We will give an example. When Israel was in Babel, they first thought the Lord had made a mistake in sending them to this land. But after they heard that Jerusalem was destroyed, the city of the Lord, then they feared it was hopeless for them. This is the moment that the prophet Ezekiel was called to encourage this people. “Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live” (Ezek. 33:11). This means there was yet hope for Judah in Babel.
“Is this also applicable for a poor sinner?” becomes the question of the sinner. Yes, but it has to go the same way as with Israel, in a deep way.
Then we may point to Golgotha. In the death of the crucified Mediator lies the life of the Church. The cross of Christ shows what our punishment should be, but Christ has taken the place of His elect. This is the only way of deliverance. Therefore deliverance must receive an important place in the preaching also. It means a growing up in grace as the apostle Peter writes, “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).
Many churches believe this, and so do we, because outside of Jesus there is no life. Still, we must add something to this. The majority of churches speak of this increase in an unbiblical way as if it is up to man to do it. They take historical faith for true faith and think man is able to accept the Lord and His merits in his own strength. This is a deceitful interpretation whereby Satan has devoured millions. We have to be so careful not to follow free will doctrine because that is what we like by nature—I want to do something myself.
How must it then be taught to the people? What is the experience of God’s children? The Holy Spirit shows them more and more their sins and misery. However hard they have tried, they are unable to make themselves acceptable before God. Is this then growing in grace? Yes, but it is totally different from the explanation which is given by the majority of other churches. Growing in grace is also to learn more and more our sins, and our unworthiness to receive any blessing. It is like John the Baptist has said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
Thus they come to an end with themselves and their works. It becomes hopeless. Then the Lord will reveal a way in Another—in their heart. Alas, there are many who think this revelation of Christ in their heart is not necessary. They believe that the revelation in the Word is sufficient: we should believe the Bible; the application of the Spirit is not needed. Thus they deceive themselves and others too. We have to keep in mind that it is possible to praise the Lord in this life, but before God’s judgment seat historical faith will be too short. They miss the true knowledge of Christ and the application of His merits by the Spirit.
Is this then really necessary? Yes, the Lord clearly has described this in Matthew 16. Jesus walked among the Jews who had the privilege above the Gentiles of having God’s Word. But they did not know the promised Messiah who walked among them. They confessed He was a great prophet, but they did not acknowledge Him as their Savior, as the Son of God. According to the testimony of the apostles, they thought He was John the Baptist, Elias, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. Peter could give a different testimony of Him: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Then the Lord replied that Peter was blessed. Did he know this only from the Word? The Lord said, “For flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” Like Peter who only knew the Savior by the revelation of God, so no one can know Christ except to whom it pleases the Father to reveal Him.
Here we have a very important matter which affects the whole doctrine of salvation. He who believes or preaches that it is sufficient to possess the Word to know Christ without a special revelation of God in our hearts, ascribes to himself a power which we have lost since we sinned against God. In fact, they deny man’s state of death. If we are without the saving enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, then we are still blind for Christ. I know that many times some say that in our denomination we believe that a person must have a dream or a vision to be saved. That is not true. But it is true that the Lord speaks by His Word and Spirit in the heart of man, “No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost” (1 Cor. 12:3).
It is really a serious matter that in so many churches they are failing to preach the revelation of Christ by Word and Spirit. In essence they are Remonstrants and enemies of God’s people. Weepingly, the apostle Paul calls them enemies of the cross of Christ. To be saved it is necessary for every person that Christ be glorified in the heart. It is the promise to the church that the Holy Spirit will glorify Christ. Christ is revealed the moment that the eyes of faith are opened for the Person of Christ in the Word, to see in Him what they never have seen before.
Now we must make a difference in what takes place in the moment of regeneration on the side of God and on the side of man. On the side of God the sinner is implanted in Christ and in Him they possess everything; they are justified and sanctified. God cannot have communion with the sinner without Christ. Therefore Christ has given a complete satisfaction and now God can again have communion with the sinner. On the side of man it is just the opposite. By the administration of the Spirit the sinner learns that a holy and righteous God cannot have communion with him. Before the mirror of the law the reality that he is full of sin and iniquity is shown. At God’s time the gospel breaks the hearts of sinners and they learn to pray the prayer of the publican, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” They come as a beggar at the throne of grace but don’t know Christ for their own heart. There are also moments they may taste the goodness of the Lord wherein they may rejoice. This makes them cry more earnestly for grace. So under the administration of the law and gospel they continue to see more of their sin and more of the mercy of the Lord. They may hear that the Lord calls such wretched creatures as they are to come to Him. This is still without the conscious knowledge of faith of the Person of Christ. Many of us still remember what Rev. Lamain said so many times: “Christ is the most hidden Person in the divine Being.” When we may come to the end of our works, Christ is revealed out of the Word and we may see a fullness in Him.
We have seen that growth in grace is in general imperceptible to the Christian himself. It is, for the most part, of a very gradual nature—like a plant which grows insensibly. Or like a baby which becomes stronger and taller. Growth in grace discovers itself in an increase of spiritual light and knowledge. To see more of sin is a real sign that God’s work is being carried on: when we see more vileness in ourselves and more beauty in Christ; more of our own emptiness and more of His fullness; more of the insufficiency of our own righteousness to justify us before God and more of His glory. Of this people we may say, they are growing in grace, but they don’t become great Christians in their own eyes.
It is a great blessing to be brought to the end of our life, to become death-worthy before God. The Mediator, of whom we have seen so much in former days, is now hiding Himself behind the justice of the Father. But when we may accept our condemnation, then at the same moment the Holy Spirit reveals the riches and grace of Christ. The sinner may then see Him as white and ruddy in His obedience.
Then Christ is revealed in all His love, His righteousness, and glory. The Father has drawn to Christ, the Holy Spirit glorifies Christ, and the sinner may see Him with the eyes of faith and embrace Him with the arms of faith. This blessed revelation of Christ gives a new depth to the life of God’s child. From the more legalistic view there comes a more evangelical disposition to expect it from Christ alone for time and eternity. Daily they need Him as Prophet, Priest, and King. Christ becomes all-and-in-all unto them.
We will close with a quotation from the Puritan, William Perkins: “Ministers of the gospel must learn to know Christ, like Paul has learned to know Him. They must not be satisfied with what they have learned in the schools, but they must come further to the true knowledge of Christ. They who must bring others to conversion, must be truly converted themselves.” Every preacher who may learn this will follow the calling of the Lord and with Paul must say, “For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” As He is the Pearl of great price, He will be shown in all His beauty. Then deliverance receives the place it deserves in the preaching and God’s people will rejoice in it. This preaching of Christ does not mean there is no message for the unconverted, but it may make them jealous to also serve God.
Rev. A.M. den Boer is pastor of the Netherlands Reformed congregation of Sunnyside, Washington.
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Bekijk de hele uitgave van vrijdag 1 februari 1991
The Banner of Truth | 28 Pagina's
Bekijk de hele uitgave van vrijdag 1 februari 1991
The Banner of Truth | 28 Pagina's