This particular rubric under the general heading: “In His Fear,” deals primarily with the education and training of the seed of the covenant.
In Reformed circles, we often emphasize that the training of the covenant seed is the primary task of the Christian Home, the Christian School, and the Christian Church. However, there is also a personal and mutual training by the covenant seed themselves, especially as our children grow older. They are not merely trained by others, they also train and must train themselves. In as far as they are trained by others they must willingly cooperate, favorably respond and react, they must be active themselves. If they are not, you cannot even begin to train and educate the covenant seed. This becomes all the more apparent as our children grow older. After all they are not dead pieces of wood or metal which is shaped and molded at will by others, but they are rational- moral, volitional creatures. And as we train our children, they on their part must take a cooperative interest. It is even a vital part of our training to inculcate this into our children. That’s why we should never lose sight of the fundamental relationship of authority and obedience in the training of the covenant seed. They must be taught that we expect and demand favorable reaction to the instruction given/ whether it is by precept, teaching or example.
On the other hand, as I have intimated already, our children, especially in the time of adolescence, must actively practice and be engaged in self-training. It would be interesting to elaborate on this specific phase of covenant training. However, for the present we will not enter into this particular subject.
In this article, and also in the sequence of this article, we have in mind first of all the Church and its covenant seed, and the training, instruction and education of the covenant youth of the Church Institute. In this connection we expect to touch upon a few matters which are of general interest to all of us. My predecessor who, for a few months, had charge of this particular rubric, emphasized especially the training and education by the Christian School, and also brought out what is meant by training the child in the fear of the Lord. Hence, we thought it proper to also say something about the task of the Church in this matter. For this reason matters like the following will be treated: Whom does the Church train, instruct, educate; What is meant by this; How do we try to accomplish this; Could we, perhaps, improve upon our method? etc., etc.
In this article we will deal first of all with the expression “The Man of God.” Immediately questions like these arise: “Who is the man of God, where can he be found, how must he be treated?”
Naturally, in order to find an answer to these questions we must and will resort to Scripture. The Bible often speaks of “The man of God.” Particularly in the Old Testament we meet several times with this expression. And as a rule this particular designation is applied to prophets. I am thinking now e.g. of the prophet Elijah who was addressed by three different captains of the army of the King Ahaziah as “Man of God.” (see II Kings 1). And in that connection “Man of God” means undoubtedly: “A man appointed by God, a man sent by God and formed by God for a very definite and specific task.” God’s own prophet, ordained and authorized to speak and act in the name of God.
However, it is not in that sense that I am writing about “The man of God.” We also meet with this expression in the New Testament, I have particularly in mind now. The entire text in its proper setting reads: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”—Whereas at present we plan to say something about “The man of God,” this text is for us the point of procedure. In connection with our subject and in the light of II Tim. 3, we first will attempt to answer the question: “Who is the man of God?”
The “man of God” is the man who is exclusively of God. He is God’s man in a very unique sense of the word. The man of God is he who from all eternity is chosen by God to be God’s peculiar possession, to be redeemed by Him, to share in His own covenant life, and to live eternally to the honor and praise and glory of God Triune. In other words ‘the man of God’ is the elect child of God. Hence, the designation ‘man of God, is applicable to all God’s children, without any exception whatsoever.
But this elect child of God must be redeemed because by nature he is one with the fallen race in Adam, totally depraved and lying in the midst of death. And his redemption, objectively, is God’s work through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, the Mediator of God and Man. And because redemption is solely the work of God, the elect sinner is also from the viewpoint of redemption “the man of God.” But even that is not all, the elect sinner redeemed by Christ must be made actual partaker of that redemption. And also this is solely the work of God. God regenerates His elect child, implants into him the new, heavenly life which is from above, a gift of God’s grace. And after God regenerates His elect child He also calls him out of the darkness of sin into the light of His grace, of His Son, into the light of life and fellowship with God. The Lord gives His child faith which is the living tie whereby he is united to his blessed Redeemer and in Him a living member of the body of Christ, a friend and confidant of God. And, too, God justifies him in Christ, by faith, in the day of final redemption, God also sanctifies him, and presently God glorifies him and makes him share in heavenly perfection in the glory of his Redeemer.—That is really ‘The Man of God.’ He is ‘man of God’ in every way, in every respect, and from every viewpoint. He is chosen, redeemed, saved, glorified by God, and God makes him inherit the eternal perfection of covenant fellowship with Him.
Do you now fully understand as to who is “The Man of God?” he is the elect, the Christian, the believer. And it is this ‘man of God’ that must be trained, educated by the Church. This is the holy, official calling of the Church through the office. Indeed, a glorious task but also a great responsibility.
But if this is part of the task of the Church, and it is by no means a task of minor importance, the question may well be raised: “Where can this man of God be found?” The Church must know this in order to be able to train him and “Thoroughly furnish him unto all good works,” as it is expressed in II Timothy 3:17. It stands to reason if this man of God is found everywhere in general and-nowhere in particular, the Church cannot very well reach him and train him and furnish him. It would become an impossible task. The Church would not know where to find him, how to reach him and how to go about his training. However, God has not placed the Church before such an impossible task. True, ‘the man of God’ may be found everywhere in the sense that the elect are scattered over the face of the earth and that out of every tribe, nation and tongue there are those that shall be saved. But it is not true that ‘the man of God’ is found everywhere in the sense that we never know where to look for him and that we are never sure whether we deal with him. No, according to God’s own Word “The man of God” is found in the generations of God’s people. And that of course narrows down the circle considerably. The man of God is found in the Church. It has pleased God that the generations of His people should be saved and that His covenant of grace should run through the bedding of the natural seed of His people. And the generations of God’s people bring forth the spiritual seed, the elect, the children of God, the true believers. That does not mean that none can be brought in from the outside (if that were true there would not be such a thing as mission work), but whenever this happens, through the irresistible operation of the Spirit and the preaching of the Word, these ‘outsiders’ are brought ‘inside’, within the sphere of the Church and the covenant. And thus also they and their children, and their generations, are brought within the sphere of the covenant in its historical manifestation.
Hence, the ‘man of God,’ and we are thinking here first of all of the true spiritual seed as they have as yet not come to years of discretion, is found in the Church.
Does the foregoing now imply that we claim that all children in the Church, born out of the generations of God’s people, are true, spiritual seed? Or, to put it somewhat differently, do we presuppose that all children of believers are regenerated? Not at all. Both Scripture and experience clearly teach us that not all is Israel that is of Israel. Also reprobation is found among the children of believers.
How then, you ask, must we approach this matter, must the Church select, ‘pick out’ the elect, the spiritual seed;, the man of God, and train, instruct, furnish that man of God? This is impossible, and it would be sheer presumption on the part of the Church to thus, arbitrarily, select ‘the man of God’ out of her own midst. No, but it is the solemn duty of the Church to treat, instruct, educate all her natural seed as though every individual child in her midst were ‘a man of God.’
Perhaps you say: “But the Church will never be able to furnish the carnal seed unto all good works, will never be able to educate the reprobate into becoming ‘a man of God.’ This is perfectly correct. Neither does God demand that of the Church. But God does demand that the Church treat, instruct, train every covenant child as ‘the man of God.’ In other words the Church may not proceed from the exception! (which will come to manifestation in due time), the Church may not have the negative approach, but she must proceed from the rule, and the organic conception, that our covenant children are God’s children, elect, redeemed by Him.—That is the positive approach.
This is an all-important point the Church must ever keep in mind in her training of the covenant youth. She may not treat the covenant children as though they are heathens, or as objects of mission work and evangelization. In her preaching, teaching, training, the Church must ever be conscious of the fact that she is dealing with “The man of God.” And this man of God must be furnished unto all good works. What this implies more particularly we hope to explain in a subsequent article.