We are still studying Paul’s superb and masterful refutation of the party-strife and schism in the congregation of Corinth; the heinous sin of making a rend in the church of the living God!
They who perpetrate such evils never have a proper and sober consideration of the entire work and design of God in Christ Jesus; they act and speak as if the church were not God’s peculiar possession, his dwelling place in the Holy Spirit. They must be reminded of many things concerning the church, the first principles, the simple rudiments of the kingdom of God. And if they are not those “who are perishing,” but are spiritual men, to whom the wisdom of God is revealed in mystery, then the reminder of such simple rudiments will be the means of grace to bring them to spiritual sobriety, (a nice word in Scripture) for Godworks grace in the hearts of the faithful, of all who believe, whether they be Jew or Gentile—through admonitions, warnings and threatenings!
Thus our Fathers of Dordt so soberly write in Fifth Head of Doctrine, Article 14 “And as it hath pleased God, by the preaching of the Gospel, to begin this work of grace in us, so he preserves, continues and perfects it by the hearing and reading of his Word, by meditation thereon, and by the exhortations, threatenings and promises thereof, as well as by the use of the sacraments.”
This sobriety of the Fathers is a solid building upon the foundation, which Paul laid as a wise master builder, besides which none other can be laid. And this work of the Fathers of Dordt has stood and shall stand the test of the touch stone of the Word, serving for the advancement of the glory of God and the comfort of His church. And it is a ministry of sobriety and power which stands four-square upon this foundation of Paul and the careful building of the Fathers! See I Corinthians 3:10-15.
In the very warp and woof of this sobriety just referred to we also meet with the only practical wisdom. Here we do not give a certain normative value and validity to life (we moeten ook met het “leven” rekenen) but all life is measured by the very sober realization, that only the Word of God. is the Regula Fidei, (rule of faith) and that the exhortations are a part of this preaching of the Word, the Regula Fidei. And all that, which does not measure up to this canon, this rule of faith, is not faith, but will be manifested in that day to be so much hay, stubble and chaff, which shall be burned with fire. Here the preacher cannot determine where the lines shall be drawn, how high the wall shall be built, but here he finds the lines drawn for him in the A-B-C book of Scripture and all he does is trace lines! Here also he finds the walls built which protect him and the church, the walls of Zion, and either he will hide himself in God’s secret place behind these walls, content to dwells in Israel, or he will be irked-by these walls and will them to be broken down as an evil in the City of our God!
Now let each beware how he builds! (I Corinthians 2:10)
Let that also be the prayerful carefulness of the writer of these lines!!
For who are we but ministers through whose preaching of the Word the Holy Spirit works faith in the hearts of the believers; and every preacher in his own place; each laboring according to the gifts which God has given him!
Such is sobriety in our evaluation of preachers, and such is also sobriety and power in the heart of every preacher who teaches in the church of the living God.
Let us, therefore, attempt to trace the A-B-C lines of Paul in this, first Chapter of I Corinthians. And when we are able to trace these lines of Paul’s teaching and admonitions, and to see this great Apostle’spedagogical approach, then it will also be evident that we are not spiritual .idiots and imbeciles and morons, but that we have a good, healthy and a matured understanding of the Word; workmen who rightly divide the Word and, therefore, need not to be ashamed of it now, nor in that day!
We will needs have to put spiritual things with spiritual, even as the little child in kindergarten puts natural things with natural by associating the mother bear and the cub, the doll and the doll house, the mother and the baby, the farmer and his tractor. Such will have to be the spiritual intelligence, in STUDYING our text which intelligence can see the proper meaning of the wisdom of God in the design of our salvation, or in the proper relationship of our calling and our faith, and God’selection and our calling. This is simply the A-B-C of the Scripture.
This is masterfully shown by Paul in our text: I Corinthians 1:26-31!
We read in these verses the following: “For take note of your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, (yea) and things which are not to bring to naught things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence, but of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification and redemption: that according us it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”
We would call your sanctified attention to the following in this Scripture passage:
In the first place, we should notice that Paul in speaking of our “calling” places his finger at the very cardinal point in our Christian experience where the wise design of God in our salvation is indisputably demonstrated. It is exactly in our “calling” that we are given to observe that God’s “folly” is wiser that the wisdom of men, and that his “weakness” is stronger than men! It is well to notice that Paul brings up this question, this reality of our “calling,” exactly in this connection, and that, too, in his polemic against the party-strife which is rooted in a desire to glorify man!
Since Paul brings up the consideration, the properconsideration of our calling in his “exhortation” to cut off all boasting of men in the flesh and not in the Lord, we do well to observe what this “calling” implies according to Scripture and the confessions!
We notice the following:
1. That we should heartily agree with H.G.W. Meyer in his Commentary when he rejects the presentation of “calling” as being simply the equivalent of “Betuf,” the outward circumstances in which they lived in Corinth, the occupation in their Ife! Such is contrary to the text and to all that the Bible teaches us elsewhere in unmistakable language concerning our calling into the fellowship of God’s Son!
2. That we should also clearly understand that calling must here not be understood merely in the sense of the external calling, as seems to be the sense in the well-known passage of Scripture, where Jesus says: “Many are called, but few are chosen.” Apart now from the fact that there never is a calling merely to the ear of man, whether it be in the elect, who are “being saved,” or in the reprobate who “are being destroyed,” it can be safely asserted that our text does not speak of the mere external calling. It speaks not of the calling of all, if they will believe, but our text speaks of the calling which the “brethren” have experienced and do experience in their heart and life, as the Word of the Cross is a wisdom and power of God in their hearts! And that no mere “external” calling can effect.
(Nota bene: it is well to observe that the Canons do not speak of the external “calling” but do speak of the Gospel being “externally preached.” These two are by no means identical in Scripture and in the Confessions, even though they must be seen in their proper relationship to one another. Calling is effectedthrough the preaching by the Holy Spirit, yet this calling and preaching are never identical. See Heidelberg Catechism, Question 65, where the answer is, “From the Holy Ghost, who works faith in our hearts by the preaching . . . .”)
3. That it should be clearly understood and-also be our believing observation concerning our calling, according to Paul’s earnest exhortation in this text, that “calling” here refers to the efficacious calling of the Holy Spirit unto true faith and conversion, that is, unto justification by faith, and a walk of sanctification which flows from such a living faith; kindled in our hearts through the Holy Spirit in the preaching of the Word of the Cross!
a. In the first place this is the very clear and explicit teaching of Paul in the first few verses of this Chapter. There he very advisedly and emphatically teaches that the church at Corinth, who are admonished as the “brethren” in our text, are “called saints,” that is, they are saints by virtue of their being “called” efficaciously of God. See verse 2, where we also read that the church is those “being sanctified in Christ Jesus,” by virtue of the efficacious calling in Christ.
b. Secondly we should not overlook in determining the nature of the “calling,” which must be considered according to Paul’s admonition, lest we boast in man, that this calling rests solely upon the faithfulness and the almighty of God in Christ. Thus we read in verse 9, “Faithful is God, through whom ye have been “called”into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. This thus being called into (eis) the fellowship of his Son benefits. And this faith the Holy Spirit works in our hearts through the preaching of the Word of the Cross!
(Nota bene: When the Canons speak of this “calling into the fellowship with His Son” we hear our Fathers speak the beautiful language of III, IV, Article 11 where we read : “But when God accomplishes his good pleasure in the elect, or works in them true conversion, he not only causes the gospel to be externally preached to them, and powerfully illumines their minds by the Holy Spirit, that they may rightly understand and discern the things of the Spirit of God; but by the efficacy of the same regenerating Spirit, pervades the inmost recesses of the man; he opens the closed and softens the hardened heart, and circumcises that which was uncircumcised, infuses new qualities into the will, which to heretofore dead he quickens; from being evil, disobedient, and refractory, he renders it good, obedient, and pliable; actuates and strengthens it, that like a good tree, it may bring forth the fruits of good actions.”)
c. Thirdly, when we see the “calling” as the efficacious calling, then alone can we see how Paul can connect this with the election” as he does in this passage, and only thus is this text ammunition against the vain glorying of schism and party-strife. For if the calling is efficacious, then only it is truly a divine work,” evidently a supernatural work, most powerful, and at the same time most delightful, astonishing, mysterious and ineffable; not inferior in efficacy to creation, or the resurrection from the dead, as the Scriptures, inspired by the Author of this work, declares . . .” Canons II, IV, Art. 12.
Such is the sobriety with which our Fathers took notice of the calling wherewith we have been called.
They maintained the “golden chain” of election, calling, justification, and eternal glory!
More of this in the next installment, D.V.