In our exposition of this passage from the sermon of Paul, spoken in Antioch of Pisidia, we raise and answer three questions or propositions. These are as follows:
- What we are to understand by the “promise made unto the Fathers.” To this proposition we gave our answer in the Standard Bearer of September 1.
- What we are to understand by the “fulfillment of this promise” and how God has done this “in raising Jesus.” We began giving our answer to this question in our former article, September 15 issue of the Standard Bearer.
- The reader can still look forward to what we understand to be the scope and meaning of the text, where it says “and we preach unto you the glad tidings.”
Before we turn our attention to the meaning of this third proposition, we must yet pay attention to some of the particulars in the context of the passage—particulars which shed a great deal of light on the proper method of interpreting the Scriptures, so that we may be certain beyond a shadow of doubt that we grasp and preach the sense of the Holy Spirit.
We refer to the fact, that Paul, in speaking of the raising of Jesus, says that God has raised Him from the dead exactly according to what is written in the decree: “Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee.” Since we have entered into the meaning of this marvelous and meaningful statement ofin our former article we shall here not delineate upon it, lest we fall into needless repetition. But what we do desire to point out at this place is, that there is here a principle of interpretation employed by Paul which lies at the bottom of the Canon of Scripture. Without seeing this principle and applying it everywhere one cannot rightly divide the Word; then the key to the understanding of the Scriptures is lacking, and we are not led along the sure path pointed out by the Scriptures for all faith and life. The principle of interpretation to which we here allude is that of interpreting Scripture in the light of Scripture and that, too, in such a way that the less clear passage be interpreted in the light of the more clear passages!
In the case of our text we are in a happy position in this respect. Very clearly this seemingly obscure passage of what, according to Psalm 2:7, is written in the Decree is interpreted in the light of more clear passages such as, we have inand in . For it is from these passages that Paul here in this sermon refers. He does this not to prove to us from these passages that the truth of Psalm 2:7 stands, but rather to show from these clearer passages the meaning of the less clear passage of the Word of God. The Scriptures do not contradict themselves. We must apply the “rule of faith” (regula fidei) to hear the one mind of Christ and of the Holy Spirit in all of these passages of the Scriptures. What is stated in them was written many years apart, but the primary author, the Spirit of Christ is one and the same in all, as He searches the deep things of the mystery of God as it spans the ages. This is principle of interpretation not, as is often very maliciously suggested and whereby the simply are led off the track, a rationalistic principle of interpretation. It is simply the universal meaning of Scripture. And this interpreting Scripture in the light of Scripture lies at the very surface here in Paul’s sermon, as, in fact, in all the Scriptures.
So let us proceed with the Scriptures passages as found here in the context.
The first passage is Isaiah 55:3, where we read in full “Incline your ear, and come unto me; hear, and your soul shall live: and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, ever the sure mercies of David.” In close connection with these “holy things of David and the faithful things,” for thus the text literally reads in the Greek, we must consider what we read in the greater part of. Bible students generally, point to verse 13 of this passage as being the key passage, where we read “He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of His kingdom forever.” In this latter passage Jehovah Himself speaks to David by the mouth of the prophet Nathan. Jehovah forbids David to build a house for His name in Jerusalem. David had so fervently longed to build a house for the Lord. He had now subdued the enemies, and the ark was resting on the hill of Zion, in Jerusalem, the city of the King. And now it hurts David that the Lord’s ark rests in a tent. He makes the Lord’s house his care. But he is told that this will be performed by his son. Of course, typically this son is Solomon, who builds a typical temple, as beautiful an earthly replica of the heavenly as is humanly possible. But the full realization of this Word of God to David is in Christ Jesus, through whom redemption is to all the people. He builds the temple of God’s Church in three days, by rising the third day from the dead. These things are promised to David, and by virtue of this promise of God to David (Compare ) these “holy things” are “truthful things.” To this promise the prophet refers in Isaiah 55:3, and Paul tells us that this prophecy is the same as that spoken of in Psalm 2 according to which word Christ is raised from the dead, and in which the promise made to the Fathers is fulfilled once and for all.
In the same light, says Paul (and in this he concurs with Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost, see) we are to understand also Psalm 16:10, where we read “Thou wilt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption” Although this word too is spoken by David as having application to himself, yet it is evident that the Spirit of Christ was here speaking of the fulfillment of the promise made to the fathers in the raising of Jesus from the dead. For it is evident that David died and that his flesh did see corruption. Hence, this text was not realized in David literally. Literally David’s flesh saw corruption. Thus is the argument of the Holy Spirit from the facts. Says Paul, “For David, after he had in his own generation served the counsel of God, fell asleep, and was layed unto his fathers, and saw corruption, but He whom God raised up saw no corruption.” This latter clause “He whom God raised up” refers to none else but to Christ, the Son promised to David, a Savior of His people.
In this man, Jesus our Lord, is salvation proclaimed!
God raised Him from the dead. Through one man sin and death came into the world, and through one man is also the resurrection of the dead, and the fulfillment of the promise.
Thus it is written in Psalm 2:7!
Thus it is also written in all of the Scriptures!
Let, therefore, no man sever what God has put together. I refer to the eternal counsel of God and the certain realization of the promise in Christ Jesus our Lord. Were it not for the decree there would not be a promise, nor would there be a certain realization of the promise. But now the promise stands certain; it is as certain as its realization in Christ’s death and resurrection. And nothing can stand in the way of the realization. All the raging of the peoples is vain. That it is vain is clearly shown at the cross and resurrection, where principalities and powers are stripped and made an open shame.. For the Lord on high laughs with a divine and holy laughter when through sinful hands the Son of God is crucified at the cross, and He has all of these enemies in derision when He brings forth His son triumphantly from the cross, causing the watch to become as dead men!
To this Paul not only by implication alludes in this sermon when he sketches the history of Israel from the fathers to Christ (verses 17-24) but he also calls attention to this very fact in the verses 27-31, where we read in part “For they that dwell in Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew Him not, nor the voices of the prophet which are read every sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning Him . . . But God raised Him from the dead … and we bring you good tidings of the promise …”
Wherefore, I repeat let us beware that we do not separate, what God in His own mind has put together. For who have known the mind of the Lord, meting out His Spirit, or being His counselor hath taught Him, when he wrote in the decree “Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten Thee?” With whom took He counsel, and who instructed Him in the path of justice, and taught Him knowledge, and showed Him the way of understanding? Behold the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are accounted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing … All the nations are as nothing before Him; they are accounted by Him as less than nothing and vanity! As much as we love our soul’s salvation, let us glady confess that He worketh all things according to the Counsel of His sovereign will; that this will of His sovereign and determined decree is executed in the raising of Jesus from the dead, and in all of history, in which the Son shall be Lord over all!
Oh, it is true, we must not identify the counsel of God either with the “promise made to the fathers.” We have said that we may not separate what God has most wonderfully joined together. But just as we may not tamper with this unity, so also we may not change the nature of the relation of counsel and promise and identify the two. In our text quoted from Psalm 2:7 the decree lies back of the promise. It is, if I may so speak, a prior consideration in God. I say: if I may so speak. I realize that God is simple, and He is eternal. Still I must speak in the categories of time (there is no timeless logic) when I speak of the eternal God. And, what is more, God Himself teaches me thus to speak. He speaks His endless thoughts in the time limited words and thoughts of man. He speaks of before and after. And so I too say: The counsel is a prior consideration. It is determinative of all God’s works. Eph. 1:11. He works all thing according to the counsel of His will. He elected us in Christ to be holy, having foreordained us unto the adoption of children through Jesus Christ. Hence, God’s works in time, also the giving of His promise, is according to the counsel. Hence the promise and the counsel are not identical.
Does this mean that the promise is less certain than the counsel? Not at all. The promise is just as certain, because it is God who declares of the decree “Thou art my Son, This day have I begotten Thee,” when He promulgates His promise to Adam and Eve in the Protevangel, or when He came to Abraham promising him a son, and assuring him that He will be the God of him and of his Seed after Him, that is of Christ and all that are given Him of the Father. Always the promise rests sure in the faithfulness of Him who has promised. That is the underlying thought in Paul’s sermon. God has chosen our fathers; God has led Israel all the way from the time of the patriarchs till the time of David the king; God has promised to David a great son, and this promise cannot be broken. That is the one and ever recurring theme in all the law and the prophets, and that is the jubilant note in this sermon in Antioch of Pisidia.
Must this promise then not be preached? Must the New Testament in Christ’s blood not be administered to the heirs of the promise? Paul says: And we preach to you glad tidings.
To this thought we would call attention in our next article, D. V.