Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Upon what Rock: Presumption or Preeminence?

“The Church’s one foundation...Elect from every nation,” 

And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. Matthew 16:17-18 

The Rock - is the eternal, immutable, irrevocable, electing purpose of the Father in the Son: “predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will,” Ephesians 1:11. As the Son was His express image - “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature...” Hebrews 1:3.  So shall there be a company of those that express the image of the Son - “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;...” Romans 8:29 This purpose must not be denigrated to the limits of foreknowledge only - for in it is contained the foreordination of eternity. Such attempts only betray the futility of the mind of man to comprehend the wisdom of The Almighty. 

The prophet Isaiah speaks: “Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, 'My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure';...” 46:10  That purpose is singular in the Son - and made manifest in those for whom He effectually intercedes: “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.” John 17:9 ESV 

The Foundation:  It is shallow conjecture that would attribute some quality to the character of Peter. If Peter be the foundation, then what is his merit?  The foundation of the church could never rest on flesh or blood - nor on the will of man: “who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:13 And Paul harkens back to Moses’ encounter with God: “So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.” Romans 9:16  Merit flows initially from the Throne of God–not toward it. Only that which has come forth from Him is worthy of being returned to Him. 

For those that would insist that the origin of their faith rests upon their “free moral agency” their foundation can be nothing more than sinking sand.  It was not flesh and blood - the will of man - that resulted in the seminal pronouncement of the Saviour: “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona,...”  For Peter’s utterance - “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” - came not as a result of his mental acuity nor his spiritual perception, but on the sovereign election of the Father: “for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” 

The Wounds:  Unless such an illusion should persist - in Peter’s own mind, or ours - only a few moments later Peter suffers Christ’s rebuke: “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” Matthew 16:23  The wounds of which must also be an indication of electing favor lest he - or we - think too much of himself. From the Psalmist: “Before I was afflicted I went astray, But now I keep Your word.” 119:67 In the same vein from Proverbs: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.” 27:6

The error of man-centeredness persists when the chronology of the following passage is interpreted in this manner: “and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” That is to say, whatever man declares is then ratified in heaven. Taken in the context of this whole passage this misapplication is nothing less than egregious - or even pernicious.  The wilderness temptation of the pinnacle raises its head once again. And the adage is verified, “A proof-text without a context is a pretext.” 

The Initiative:  A more accurate translation is afforded here: “and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven." NASB1  Thus leaving the initiative in the hands of our Faithful Father, remaining true to the relationship the Son had with Him:  "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.” John 5:19  The verb tense may seem to be but a nuance; yet the unlocking portent of it is crucial. 

"I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven;...” The keys of the kingdom rest not in the finite hand of man nor his vain imagination - but in the grip of God and God alone. Isaiah speaks prophetically of the coming of the Messiah: "Then I will set the key of the house of David on his shoulder, When he opens no one will shut, When he shuts no one will open.” 22:22  From the commentator Matthew Poole: “the government, the power of opening and shutting, of letting men into it or putting them out of it,...”  

The Government:  Turning again to Messianic prophecy: “and the government shall be upon his shoulder:...” Isaiah 9:6  And then to the Revelation of the Messiah: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.” Revelation 3:7 These bookends contain between them the total volume of the book.

This sequence - and the resulting efficacy - are found in the instructions of Christ regarding the ministry of legislative prayer: “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:9-10 My personal commentary: May the preexistent activity of heaven be made manifest in the earth. Or, “May Your will be done on the earth as it is already being done in heaven.”

Ratification remains totally within the realms of the courts of heaven - and there alone. "I am the LORD, and I do not change. That is why you descendants of Jacob are not already destroyed.” Malachi 3:6 

The Rock - Again!  Returning to our foundational theme: "There is no one holy like the LORD, Indeed, there is no one besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God.” 1 Samuel 2:2 The rock is the revelation of the Son of God as the result of the Father’s own choice.  "For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father." John 6:65 

The eternal immutable purpose of the Father is to present to His Son His chosen bride - the reward for His suffering. “in order that God’s purpose in election might stand:” Romans 9:11b In no other manner is she capable of reflecting his glory.

The Church’s one foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord,
She is His new creation
By water and the Word.
From heaven He came and sought her
To be His holy bride;
With His own blood He bought her
And for her life He died.

Elect from every nation,
yet one o'er all the earth,
her charter of salvation,
one Lord, one faith, one birth;
one holy Name she blesses,
partakes one holy food,
and to one hope she presses,
with every grace endued.

Samuel J. Stone - 1866

Solus Christus - In Christ Alone

1Or “and whatever you bind on earth is already bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven." HCSB 

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