In a previous article we brought out that the elect, the Christian, the believer is ‘the man of God’. And on the basis of Scripture God is our God and the God of our seed, hence, the church must proceed from the fact that in the covenant child she is dealing with ‘the man of God’. And this ‘man of God’ must be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. This is according to Scripture, and specifically so stated in.
The complete furnishing of the covenant child, of ‘the man of God’, is of course a task for which not only the Church is responsible. This is first of all the responsibility of the covenant parents. And also the Christian school as an instrument of the parent, has a very vital calling here and a great responsibility. Besides, as the covenant child grows older, and as his responsibility increases, he himself takes a very active, conscious, and determined part in this ‘furnishing’. But all this does not take away the fact that also the church has a very vital and important task to fulfill in the furnishing of the man of God. And at present we wish to deal first of all with the work, task and responsibility of the church in completely furnishing the man of God.
That the church has a vital task here and that even for her own Interest she should take a very active part in ‘furnishing’, is self-evident and that for several reasons, three of which I like to mention at present.
In the first place the church is a spiritual Institution. The school may prepare one with a view to his earthly life here on earth, train him for ‘works’ in general, for a particular vocation, the church deals directly with Scripture and spiritual matters. The church deals with the citizens of the kingdom of God, with the elect according to the promise, with the believers, the regenerated, called, justified, sanctified people of God. And the ‘good works’ to which the covenant child is to be thoroughly furnished are works that are spiritually-ethically good, God pleasing, they are in harmony with the law of God, bear the stamp of His approval. Now, if the former is true, and it is, then it stands to reason that the church is very well equipped to share in the task of furnishing the man of God. Yea, it can be expected that the Church has a lion share in this task.
To the foregoing should be added that the covenant seed belongs to the church. Our children in due time do not become members of the church, they are members, they are born into the, church, even though it is true that for a number of years they are really minors and immature church members. Nevertheless they are in a very real sense members of the church, of the body, and the grown up man in the church is the child who came to maturity. This being the case the church is vitally interested in her own members, they are part of her, they belong to the body, are members of the institution. Hence, love for her own seed and love for her own wellbeing forms the basis for a twofold motive on the part of the church to do her utmost and do her particular share in the ‘furnishing’ of her seed.
In the third place the church has a direct divine obligation here. We might quote a number of texts to prove this point, but let me remind you of the basic truth that this divine obligation follows from the fact of our covenant relation to God. We and our seed belong to God. And the church must ‘feed the lambs’. Paul urges the bishops of Ephesus to ‘take heed’ unto all the flock over which the Holy Ghost has made them overseers. ().
All the foregoing, and we could easily add to these reasons, makes it very plain that the church has a very vital task in and calling toward the furnishing of the man of God.
What now does it mean to thoroughly furnish the man of God. Is the idea that the church, on her part and as far as her calling goes, must make the man of God perfect? (Perfect understood in the ethical sense of the word, moral perfection?) That could not very well be and besides that would be impossible. No amount of education, instruction, training can make a person perfect in that sense. Many educators claim that education and training will make a child morally better. However, the reality of life and the facts of cold statistics prove different. If more education and training would make for true righteousness and lead toward perfection, our own country would approximate this ideal as closely as any other country. However, you can read it in your daily papers and the statistics of law enforcement agencies prove it that as a nation we are quite lawless. And according to the authorities there is at present even a special ‘crime wave’. Well, the church never claimed to be able to instill moral righteousness into its covenant seed, how much less then could the world ever expect to make one perfect by the process of mere education and training.
No, but the ‘man of God’ must be made perfect in the sense of being ‘thoroughly furnished’. And the latter expresses the idea of fully equipped, able and capable to perform that for which one is furnished. A machine is perfect, thoroughly furnished, when it is capable of performing the task for which it was made. All the component parts function so smoothly that the entire machine works, runs, performs its task for which it was made.
In the same sense the ‘man of God’ is thoroughly furnished when he is able to perform the work, the task, for which he is called. In other words he is thoroughly furnished when he can think, live, walk, talk, act, react as a ‘man of God’. And the man of God must be furnished unto all good works.
That brings up the question: “What are good works, what is the standard for good works, are good works some special kind of works?” It stands to reason the world cannot answer these questions for us. Neither can the world give us the standard for good works. The worldly standard for good works is the standard of men, and that standard is very inadequate, very unreliable, and does not subject itself to the Word of God. Hence, only the Word, God Himself can tell us what good works are. And according to God’s standard good works are works that are in harmony with the law of God, out of the principle of faith and done to the glory of God. The foregoing also implies that good works are not some ‘special’ works which are occasionally performed by the man of God (although they are included) but all his works, live in harmony with God’s law, live out of the principle of faith, live to the honor and; glory of God. He must do that as preacher or teacher, but also as farmer and shopkeeper, as boss and as employee, as housewife and office-worker, etc. etc. Always and everywhere and in every sphere of life he must perform good works, his works must be ethically good, they must bear the stamp of God’s divine approval.
And he must be ‘furnished’ unto these good works, he must be instructed, trained, educated with a view to being able to perform good works.—Of course, this process is never finished in this life and the good works of the man of God are good works in principle, sin always cleaveth unto him even in his most holy actions. —nevertheless, his works must be good works as described above. And for this (and of course we are mainly thinking now of the covenant child) he must be trained, equipped, so that when he grows to physical and spiritual maturity he must know what constitutes a good work, what is required of him, and how he must perform good works.
And that brings up one more question in this connection, and that question is: “What belongs to this complete furnishing of the mam’ of God, when can it be said that he is furnished, equipped to do all good works?” We might mention a number of things, but let me emphasize just a few. To the complete furnishing belongs first of all that the ‘man of God’ knows the will of God. For how can he do the will of God unless he knows it? And without thorough knowledge of God’s will he is ill equipped to do that will. In the second place he must possess the power of spiritual discernment, he must be spiritually keen, alert. He must so thoroughly know the truth and the will of God and be so spiritually sensitive that in any given situation there is found by him the proper evaluation, view, conception, reaction. For the man of God carries about the old man of sin and he lives in a hostile, shrewd, oft-times deceiving and subtle world, and always in a world of darkness. And he must be able to distinguish at all times and in every situation of life the light from the darkness. Now in order to do this he must be spiritually keen, to put in it a Holland; phrase and express it in Reformed terms: “Hij moet goede Gereformeerde voelhorens hebben.”
And in the third place to be completely furnished also implies that he must have the spiritual ability, strength, courage, stamina, to fight the battle of faith. He must be of strong will and determination, he must know how to use the right weapons at the right time.
All this, and we might mention several more things, belongs to the equipment which the man of God needs to perform all good works. And he acquires these things over a process of years, they just don’t come over night. That takes time, study, training, education. And the church has a vital part in the all-important task of thus furnishing the man of God.
How the church does and must quit herself of this task we expect to discuss in a following article.