Home > Hermeneutics > The Holy Spirit’s use of words:Example 2

The Holy Spirit’s use of words:Example 2

Arthur PinkConsider the grand truth and glorious privilege of adoption. Probably it is not going too far to say that only a very small percentage of Christians entertain any scriptural concept thereof. In human affairs it has reference to a procedure whereby a boy or girl who bears no relation to a man and woman becomes legally their child. From that the conclusion is drawn that on the ground of Christ’s atoning sacrifice and by the Spirit’s work of regeneration those who previously bore no intimate relation to God then become His children. Such an idea is not only crude, but utterly erroneous. John 11:52, makes it quite clear that Christ died for His people under the consideration of their being the children of God, and not in order to make them so: as both the Hebrews in Egypt (Exodus 5) and the heathen in Corinth (Acts 18:10) were owned by God as His before the one was redeemed and the other had the Gospel preached unto them.

“And because ye are sons [and not to make them such], God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father” (Galatians 4:6).

The Spirit is given to quicken, communicate the nature of sons, and reveal to us our union with Christ.

The inestimable blessing of adoption was bestowed upon the elect by predestination, it being God’s design therein to make them His sons by a mere act of His sovereign will:

“Having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will” (Ephesians 1:5).

Thus it is neither what Christ has done for them nor what the Spirit works in them which makes them the children of God. Adoption refers to that state of grace into which the elect are brought by virtue of their union with Christ. It is a sonship-in-law, in and through the Son, God appointing them unto union and communion with Him. Adoption conveys the legal right to every blessing we enjoy both here and hereafter.

“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:16, 17).

As holiness is that which fits us for heaven, so adoption or sonship conveys the right thereto.

“Adoption does not so much design the blessing itself prepared in the Divine predestination, or the grace received in effectual calling, as the inheritance to which the saints are adopted, even the heavenly glory: see Romans 8:23” (J. Gill).

The elect were bestowed upon Christ before the foundation of the world in the relation of children:

“Behold I and the children which God hath given Me”(Hebrews 2:13)

will be His own triumphant exclamation at the last day — not one of them lost. It is quite true that by the fall they became alienated from God, and thus in need of His being reconciled to them and they to Him; that they became dead in trespasses and sins, and therefore required to be quickened into newness of life. But observe closely how Galatians 4:4, 5 states it: “God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them [previously His] that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons,” and because we were such the Spirit was given to us. The declaration of adoption was made first in predestination (Ephesians 1:5), afterwards in Christ, and then in the believer. As the Puritan Charnock so succinctly stated it, “Adoption gives us the privilege of sons, regeneration the nature of sons. Adoption relates unto God as a Father, regeneration engraves upon us the lineaments of a Father. That makes us relatively His sons by conferring a power or right (John 1:12); this makes us formally His sons by conveying a principle (1 Peter 1:23). By that we are enstated in the Divine affection; by this we are partakers of the same.”

“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17).

A momentous statement was that, and a right understanding thereof is essential, particularly of the exact meaning of its final word. Determined to deny at all costs the evangelical truth that Christ rendered to the Law a vicarious obedience on behalf of His people, Socinians insist that in this passage “fulfill” signifies to fill out or fill full. But such a definition is entirely arbitrary, and is refuted by the canon of interpretation we are now illustrating. As the scholarly Smeaton pointed out,

“No example of such a usage can be adduced when the verb is applied to a law or to an express demand contained in the spirit of the law: in which case it uniformly means ‘to fulfil’. Thus it is said, ‘he that loveth another hath fulfilled [i.e., kept] the law’” (Romans 13:8). The inflexible usage of language rules the sense in such a phrase, to the effect that Christ must be understood to say that He came not to fill out or to supplement the law by additional elements, but to fulfill it by being made under it.

“Second, ‘fill out’ is inadmissible as applied to the second term or object of the verb: Christ did not come to fill out or expound the prophets, but simply to fulfill their predictions. Whenever the word here used is applied to anything prophetical, it is always found in such a connection that it can only mean ‘to fulfill,’ and hence we must not deviate from its uniform signification. Third, the eighteenth verse must be regarded as giving a reason for the statement made in the seventeenth. But what sort of a reason would be given if we were to render the connected verses thus: I am come to fill out or supplement the law, for verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be ‘fulfilled’?”

Moreover, it is to be carefully noted that the term fulfill was here placed by Christ in direct antithesis to “destroy,” which further determines its scope and meaning, for to destroy the law is not to empty it of its meaning, but to rescind or abrogate it. Thus to “fulfill” is to be taken in its plain and natural sense, as meaning to perform what the Law and the prophets required: to substantiate them, to make good what they demanded and announced. Law can only be fulfilled by a perfect obedience being rendered to it.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

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