According to reliable reports by several well-pleased of his audience, a Christian Reformed minister in Grand Rapids recently preached a sermon on Genesis 14:13 in which he emphasized that the Christian must not separate himself from the world, and that it is proper for him to become member of the worldly unions.
The text reads as follows: “And there came one that had escaped, and told Abram the Hebrew; for he dwelt in the plain of Manure the Amorite, a brother of Eschol, and brother of Aner: and these were confederates with Abram.” It is usually explained that these confederates took part with Abram in the pursuit of and battle against the kings that had invaded the land of Canaan, and in the rescuing of Lot and the people of Coelom.
It is net impossible that the preacher had read Dr. Kuyper’s “De Gemeene Gratie,” for in this work of the Dutch theologian one may find a paragraph in this passage of Scripture which attempts to prove that Abram and Sarah did not live in the land of Canaan “as two lonely vagabonds, without any contact with the surrounding tribes” (I:325). It must be considered very questionable, however, whether even Dr. Kuyper would have agreed with the application made to membership in the worldly unions by the preacher referred to above. In fact, in view of the separate action in various departments of life and the necessity for separate organization emphasized by this Dutch author and leader, we may well draw the conclusion that he would have condemned such application wholeheartedly.
But however this may be, the application is certainly deceptive, and the interpretation of Scripture on which it is supposed to be based is erroneous. It is deceptive, because it tends to make the people of God join the worldly unions with a clear conscience and with an appeal to the Word of God. It even presents such action on the part of the Christian as being in accord with the will of God. It is he that refuses to join that acts contrary to the divine will and to the revealed Word of God. But the interpretation of the text that is implied here is certainly erroneous. Let us note, in the first place, that it proceeds from the supposition that Mamre, Eschol, and Aner were ungodly men. This is a thing that is frequently taken for granted. Abram was the only regenerate, God-fearing man in the land of Canaan at that time, all the rest were reprobate and wicked. However, that this supposition cannot be maintained is evident from tire presence of a man like Melchisedec, king of Salem and priest of the Hose High God. Why may there not have been (in fact, there must have been) other God-fearing people in a land that counted among its inhabitants a king that was priest of God? At us note, secondly, that we read that the three Canaanites were “confederates” with Abraham, which is something quite different from membership in the union. Abram entered into an alliance with his neighbors as the head and chief of a not inconsiderable, army (for those days) of three hundred and eighteen men, for the defense of the country against the invading kings. But when one becomes member of the union he joins an existing body on its own basis, and promises to abide by and to act according to its rules and principles. He does not form a confederacy but takes upon himself a yoke, and that yoke is the yoke of unbelievers. How true this is, may be inferred from the fact that a Christian does not join a union freely, but by compulsion, i.e., because the union closes the shop to him if he does not become member. Let us note, in the third place, that the confederacy was, evidently, Abram’s confederacy. In the whole history of the pursuit of the kings that had captured Lot, Abram is the chief figure, and he takes the initiative. It is to him that God gives the victory, and he dispenses with the booty. Let us not forget that the land of Canaan was Abram’s land by promise. He defends his oven country, and expels the wicked from the inheritance of God. In this action the three neighbors were Abram’s allies, confederates. But if one joins the union he allies himself with the world; the world does not join his cause, but he joins the cause of the world. The two cases are exact opposites!
If the preacher who made use of this text to defend membership in the worldly unions had at all understood the Word of God, he would have preached a different sermon.
As it stands, he abused the Word of God to mislead the flock, and to plunge the Church headlong into the world!