Rev. Heys is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.
That wonderful covenant which God eternally decreed, and in time made known to those whom He chose in Christ to be citizens in the kingdom of heaven and to be members of the body of Christ, was presented three times in this department called The Day of Shadows.
This was possible because it pleased God to make that covenant known to us in the Old Testament and New Testament, which are rightly called Holy Writ. It was sometimes spoken directly by God, but also presented through a man to whom that truth was revealed, and in order that we today might know that He established this covenant that contains some wonderful promises. Many men were used from Moses through the apostle John to write books that number no fewer than sixty-six and present a wonderful covenant of our God with very precious and comforting promises.
That He made such a covenant the almighty God made known the very day that man fell into sin and became worthy of the very opposite of what is promised in that covenant. We can never overemphasize that pronoun “I” in what is called the Mother-Promise, namely, Genesis 3:15. The almighty, unchangeable God said, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” It is not a promise of what we will do to flee from under the curse which we received because of our sinful work. The gospel, the good news, begins with God’s word as to what HE will do. Here very powerfully we are instructed that those who are going to be saved do not have to fulfill a condition, as we pointed out in the previous installment of these articles on That Wonderful Covenant. God’s covenant promises us what Hewill do to spiritually dead sinners who cannot yet want what He promises. We ought to take note of the fact that our covenant God begins with that truth, namely, I will do this before you even want it. This He promised to those who strove to escape punishment by fig-leaf aprons, and thus by their own works. He promises covenant blessings to those who tried to hide from Him, not run unto Him in sorrow because there was yet a little love for Him in their hearts. Let us never forget how God began when He told the devil how we would be saved, not how we could save ourselves by fulfilling a condition. The simple truth we must hold on to is that God saves spiritually dead people who hate Him before He begins salvation in them. Enmity against Satan means love of God. There can be no neutrality. It is always, in every work we do, as far as its spiritual significance is concerned, either hatred against God or hatred against Satan. Did God not tell Adam, and still tells us today, that when we disobey Him we reveal spiritual DEATH? “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:17). When we die our hearts stop beating. And our hearts cannot by us be made to begin once again to pump our blood through our bodies. Well, that is what God told Adam and us. Clearly He told Adam and us that if Adam ate of that fruit, he and we could not even want to have our hearts beat in love to Him again. HE would have to do that; and in His grace He does it.
Yes, it is true that through Paul He wrote inPhilippians 2:12, 13 that we must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, because God works in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure. But take note of these words. That we must work out means that it is already in us. Paul says that too. It is God that worketh it IN us and calls us to work it out. We must already have that salvation begun in us or we cannot even want it. We have already been born again, or we do not even want that new life. And when our almighty God told Adam and Eve, by letting them hear what He said to Satan, that He would make us hate Satan and his works, He told us what HE is going to do. He not only gives us what we do not want, but (and get this fact and hold on to it tightly) He promises to His people, as represented by Adam and Eve, that which they do not even yet know exists! Adam and Eve did not have the slightest idea that God had eternally decreed a covenant, will, and a testament, with that glorious promise of making us love Him and live with him in a more wonderful life, and with far more intimate fellowship with Him in the new Jerusalem than Adam enjoyed before he died spiritually. Yet our covenant God told them what was in His covenant. He would change them, not offer a change to them and give it if they asked for it. The conditional theology of Arminianism—so widely proclaimed today—denies the fact that Adam died spiritually that day, and that he had no spiritual life to hand down to any of his descendants. It maintains that God depends upon man to have His covenant promises fulfilled, rather than that man depends upon God for every bit of his spiritual life as well as every bit of his physical life.
In order to get to the bottom of our salvation, and in order to understand and see God’s deepest purpose in making His covenant with those rich promises of bringing us where we can never, no never, sin again, we ought to turn to Isaiah 43:21. There we read, “This people have I formed for myself; they shall show forth my praise.” Get that! The believers, those born again, are completely different from Adam and Eve after they ate of the forbidden fruit and tried to save themselves from punishment by fig leaves—that is, by their own works—and tried to hide from God. This is so because God formed them, and did so before they even knew what His covenant promises were.
The awesome truth here is also that HE re-formed us—that is what is meant when He forms us for Himself while we were in a devilish form which was realized by Satan–for HIMSELF That is, for His own glory! And by all means take hold of that last part: God forms us for Himself in order that we may show forth His praises. His praise and His desire to receive our praise is behind the work of salvation which He realized in His Son. He established that wonderful covenant for His own praise and glory. There we have the deep purpose of our salvation. It is realized so that we do show forth and are able to show forth His praise. We are saved so that we may sing His praises, want to do so, and can do so! There you have the deepest reason for the covenant which He drew up and signed. There you have the purpose of God’s covenant. He forms us for Himself. He planned and designed our salvation so that He might be praised by us constantly in the New Jerusalem.
And by all means get that last part of what He said through Isaiah. He will form us for Himself so that we show forth His praises. The idea is not simply in order that He may be praised by having His work a success. Rather the idea is that we consciously and willingly praise Him for having formed us so that we could and do serve Him with heart and mind and soul and strength. The deep purpose of our salvation is His praise. He drew up covenant promises and causes them to be fulfilled completely to have rational, moral creatures sing and say that He is God. As God He delights to hear that. He does not need us, but He made us so that through us He might cause His glory to shine beautifully through creatures made in His own image.
The Scriptures present that truth to us. God Himself moved men to write the Scriptures so that His praise may shine forth. And in all preaching must the truth of Isaiah 43:21 be expressed. The rising sun every morning, the twinkling stars, the beautiful mountains, and the gardens of flowers show forth His praises. He designed them and made them. But He made man, and saved him, in order that man might praise Him with heart and lips. God’s virtues of almighty power and of infinite wisdom that made the world do praise Him. But, O, let us take hold of it, our salvation so wonderfully and deeply reveals His goodness, His mercy, His love, and His grace which the earthly, material creatures do not display. He made us to show forth that love, mercy, and grace, that wisdom and covenant faithfulness, so that we would consciously and willingly cry out with the psalmist, “O God, how good thou art!” (Ps. 73:1). With the psalmist let us say, “I will praise Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well” (Ps. 139:14). He saved us and drew up that covenant so that a people would be brought forth that knows right well His love, mercy, and grace, but also His wisdom, almighty power, and faithfulness. When we praise Him for it in the new Jerusalem the fruit of His covenant will praise Him fully in the life of every covenant believer.
The book of Psalms presents so wonderfully His praises and calls us to bless Him. “The heavens declare his glory,” we read in Psalm 19:1. The reason for this is then presented: “The firmament showeth forth his handiwork.” And although the unbelievers will not praise Him, what they see through their telescopes, through their journey to the moon, and experience through their satellites does display God’s glory. And we are saved to proclaim it especially because of that wondrous work of saving us by the blood and Spirit of His own Son. His covenant promises us (and realizes the promises) that we with the angels sing, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord” (Is. 6:3). The salvation which He designed and realized by the blood of His Son in our flesh presents works, thoughts, and desires of God that will bring forth His praise in the new Jerusalem that will never come to an end. Then all that are there will “sing a new song to Jehovah for the wonders He ‘has wrought.”
When that Son came in our flesh the angels cried out in the hearing of the shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest.” Paul, writing to the Ephesians, expresses that praise. For he wrote inEphesians 1:5, 6, “having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.” But turn also to what Peter wrote. In I Peter 2:9 we find these words: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
Showing forth His praises we are doing what He predestinated us to do. And all this we will do because He eternally decreed this in His sovereign and gracious covenant. That He promises all His elect, and that He realizes fully in them. Let this be your song then:
All that I am I owe to Thee,
Thy wisdom, Lord, hath fashioned me;
I give my Maker thankful praise,
Whose wondrous works my soul amaze.