Presbyterian Reformed Church
Larger Catechism, Question #45: Dr. William Young
The following sermon was preached by Dr. William Young at East Greenwich, RI on September 29, 1991.
Q. 45. How doth Christ execute the office of a king?
A. Christ executeth the office of a king, in calling out of the world a people to himself, and giving them officers, laws, and censures, by which he visibly governs them; in bestowing saving grace upon his elect, rewarding their obedience, and correcting them for their sins, preserving and supporting them under all their temptations and sufferings, restraining and overcoming all their enemies, and powerfully ordering all things for his own glory, and their good; and also in taking vengeance on the rest, who know not God, and obey not the gospel.
As the Lord may be pleased to grant his indispensable aid, I will draw your attention to the words found in the 19th Chapter of the Book of Revelation at the 16th verse: “And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” The Mediator is not only a Prophet and a Priest, but he is also a King. In Question # 45 of our Larger Catechism we have the question: “How doth Christ execute the office of a king?“ And the answer is given: “Christ executeth the office of a king, in calling out of the world a people to himself, and giving them officers, laws, and censures, by which he visibly governs them; in bestowing saving grace upon his elect, rewarding their obedience, and correcting them for their sins, preserving and supporting them under all their temptations and sufferings, restraining and overcoming all their enemies, and powerfully ordering all things for his own glory, and their good; and also in taking vengeance on the rest, who know not God, and obey not the gospel.”
Well, this theme of the kingship of Christ is a vast theme, and we would disclaim any effort to deal exhaustively with this very spacious subject. We wish to confine ourselves very much to a limited portion of the topic. One thing that is worth observing is that when the kingdom of Christ is spoken of in our text and in very many texts of Scripture, it is not his essential kingdom which he has as the eternal Son of God, along with the Father, and with the Holy Ghost. He is the Ruler over all things which he has created, and this belongs to his very nature as a Divine Person. That is not the kingdom with which we are concerned at the moment, though this kingdom will come to pass. But rather, it is specifically the Mediatorial Kingdom of Christ. We are speaking of Christ as the Mediator, now exercising the office of a King. This is a work which has been committed to him by God the Father in the eternal covenant in which he was appointed to be a Prophet to give instruction unto his people in all that which they need to know; and in which he was appointed to be the Great High Priest to take away the sins of his people. In that covenant he was also appointed to be the King over those whom he gives this special teaching to and over those whom he has redeemed.
It is this Mediatorial Kingdom of Christ of which mention is particularly made and with regard to which he is given this grand title, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The title may be used with respect to the essential kingdom of the Godhead as in the First Epistle to Timothy and in the 6th chapter at the 15th verse: “Which in his times he shall show, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honor and power everlasting.” These characteristics, of “having only immortality” and “dwelling in unapproachable light,” belong to God as God, and it is in this context that 1st Timothy speaks of the One who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords. But in the Book of Revelation in our text, and also in the passage that is previously found in Revelation 15:3, this title is given to our Savior who is called there the King of saints in Rev 15:3. In Revelation 17:14, we read of the Lamb that he is “the Lord of lords and King of kings; and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.” The connection of Christ with his elect indicates that it is his Mediatorial office that is in view here when he is called King of kings and Lord of lords.
In connection with the Mediatorial Kingdom of Christ, there might be said to be two aspects, an external aspect and the internal aspect. We will refrain from entering upon a discussion of the external aspect of Christ’s Mediatorial Kingdom. Mention is made in the Larger Catechism answer of the Kingdom of Christ over the visible body of the Church in the words “… and giving them officers, and laws, and censures by which he visibly governs them”. But, inasmuch as subsequently, we will as the Lord may be pleased to grant, be considering questions in the catechism with relation to the visible church, this subject can be dealt within its place and nothing need be said at present about it.
But there is the fundamental internal aspect of the Kingdom of Christ which the remainder of our Catechism answer goes on to speak of, and which the answer that we have in our Shorter Catechism speaks of namely, Christ’s dominion over his invisible kingdom, over the persons of those to whom He, by his Spirit, imparts the benefits of the Covenant of Grace. It is of this subject of the Mediator set in a kingdom over his elect people that we will endeavor to speak. First, to the calling of the subjects of the King; secondly, to the governing of those who have been called to be subjects of this great King; and thirdly, of the protection and the defense of these subjects from their enemies.
The Shorter Catechism uses the word “subduing” them to himself as the first part of the exercise of the Mediatorial office of Christ as King; and this falls under what in our Larger Catechism we have as, “calling out of the world the people to himself”, and then later on as, “bestowing saving grace upon his elect”. Indeed Christ must, as King in applying the work of his redemption, first of all, subdue sinners unto himself because by nature we are rebels against this King. We would not have him to be the Lord over us. We would raise up our heads to him in pride as being such as wanting none to be lords over us. This is our nature as we come into this world, and as we continue in life until the King of kings sees fit to subdue us to himself. We cannot enter the Kingdom of God until we born again. We can not even see the Kingdom of God before that great change takes place. It is the King who must make us willing in the day of his power, and this he does in his effectual calling of his saints. The external call of the gospel to be sure goes forth wherever the gospel is preached. Sinners are called upon without any distinction to repent and to believe in the name of the Son of God. “But who hath believed his report? To whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” It is where the Lord is pleased by his Spirit to render that Word effectual, and to the salvation of those who hear that we have the fruits of true repentance and of saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We must acknowledge that the power, Almighty power, must be put forth wherever a soul is translated out of Satan’s kingdom and drawn into the kingdom of God’s dear Son, as we have it in Colossians 1:13. “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.” The people of God who are brought into the state of true and saving faith indeed, are still in the world until the Lord calls them out of it. But while a Christian is in the world, he is not of the world. There is an enmity between the ungodly world and those who are called out of the world by the grace of God.
Now, having brought his people into his kingdom, Christ rules over those whom he has made his subjects, and he does so by his laws. We know that the moral law of God is the transcript of the perfect righteousness of the everlasting nature of him who is holy and just and good. It is that law that the King has as a Constitution, you might say, by which his people are ruled. Their obedience to that law is graciously rewarded by him, not that their obedience is such as deserves or merits the reward. They are not rewarded for their works, but they are rewarded according to their works. There is a correspondence between that obedience that is graciously wrought by the Spirit of God in the hearts of believers, and the reward that God gives in this life and in the life that is to come. That reward is a reward of grace, and it is given only for the sake of the King’s perfect obedience, and not because it is in any way merited by the obedience of the Lord’s people. The obedience of the Lord’s people, we must ever remember, is imperfect in this present life.
It is because the Christian’s own obedience has defects and faults in it that it is necessary that the children of God should be chastised, and so we have, as a part of the work of Christ as King, the correction of his people for their sins. He has declared this to be the case in Revelation, the 3rd chapter at the 19th verse, where he states to the Church of Laodicea: “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” Afflictions, as such, are not to be desired for their own sake; but they are sometimes very needful. The apostle Peter intimates this when he states; “Wherein ye greatly rejoice though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations.” These words intimate that there is sometimes a need that the children of God, though they rejoice in the great salvation that the Lord has brought them into, and though they have as a hope the promises of God, yet it is needful that they should be afflicted, and that they should be for a season in heaviness through manifold temptations. And, bodily chastisement, as we know it, is promised to be one of the blessings of the Covenant of Grace; as we have it in that great passage of the 89th Psalm, at the 30th verse: “If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; If they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; Then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes.” While the children of God are afflicted because of their imperfections and their shortcomings, yet the promise of the Covenant stands sure, and we have that promise in verse 33 of Psalm 89: “Nevertheless my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail.” The One speaking here is Christ the King. He says, “My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.”
Now, along with this work of rewarding obedience and chastising for sins, we have the Savior’s preserving and supporting his people under all their temptations and sufferings. We know that “temptation” in Scripture is used in two senses. Sometimes “to tempt” simply means “to try”. It does not always mean “to tempt to sin”, but it may mean to simply “put to the test,” or “to try.” So I believe we have it in the first chapter of the Epistle of James, where we read in verses 2 and 3: “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” It is not when one is tempted by the devil or by one’s own deceitful heart, or by someone in the world to commit sin, but it is when in the providence of God, one is in a state of trial that one may know that the trying of his faith works patience, and one may rejoice in this. But on the other hand, temptation is often in Scripture used for temptation to sin. In the same chapter of the Epistle of James, when we read in verses 13 and 14: “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.”
Now, God is said to have tempted Abraham in the first sense of the word “tempt” when the trial was made whether Abraham would obey to the extent of sacrificing his own son Isaac. But God cannot tempt in the sense of enticing or alluring one to sin. This is the work of the devil in particular. It is in both kinds of temptations that Christ as the King preserves and supports believers. He fulfills that great promise that he has made especially in regard to temptation for sin, that we have in 1st Corinthians, the 10th chapter and at the 13th verse: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” One may certainly include the first sense of “temptation,” also in this, though I am inclined to take that verse as having particularly to do with temptation to sin.
Now, in the third place we have Christ’s protection of his people. His protection of his people involves also his restraining and overcoming all his and their enemies. We may, in a way, include the dealings of Christ with his enemies as King also under this head; though in the Larger Catechism there seems to be a separation made, on the one hand, between Christ as King dealing with his own people, and on the other hand, Christ as King dealing with his enemies when it speaks of his taking vengeance on the rest who know not God, and obey not the gospel. The implication here also is that God powerfully orders all things for his own glory and for his people’s good, and this also certainly enters into the King’s protection of his people.
Now, the enemies of the people of God are threefold, as we know: the world, and the flesh, and the devil. We know that as the world hated Christ, so also the world hates those who are Christ’s. The worst enemies of the people of God are the remains of corruption that are found within us. So we have it in Galatians 5:17: “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh…” The flesh is not just the body, the physical thing, but the flesh here is the remnant of that sinful human nature even in the regenerate children of God. And we have a detailed picture of that great spiritual conflict in the latter part of the 7th chapter of the Epistle to the Romans.
The devil, as we have mentioned, is the great enemy of the people of God. He may manifest himself as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour, or he may turn himself into the appearance of an angel of light and seduce by craft those whom he is unable to allure by his strength and power. But he remains, in the one case or the other, the enemy who is in the end subdued by the King of Kings. And, we also know that last enemy to be destroyed is death, as we have it in 1st Corinthians 15:26. “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.”
Now, Christ’s destruction of his enemies does not take place all at once in time. We know that there are single instances in which the Lord has been pleased to manifest his judgment immediately and instantaneously. But very often this is not the case, but rather, it is as in the course of a period of ages that the King subdues and conquers all of his enemies. I think we have it intimated in the 2nd Psalm where we are told: “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.” The Lord can laugh at those who have set themselves against him for he knows that he holds all things in his hand and when the time comes, he will make manifest his power in the destruction of his enemies. So also, we have Christ set forth as the King at God’s right hand in the 110th Psalm, where he is said to reign until he should make his enemies to be the footstool of his feet.
Now, Christ has overcome Satan in his obedience and his sufferings, as we have it in Hebrews 2 and 14, “… that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.” And he has declared himself that he has perfectly fulfilled that which is required in God’s holy law, as he has overcome the world. The Savior is engaged now in the spoiling of the adversary’s goods as he has once and for all gained the victory over Satan. And he, in so doing, is preparing the way for his ultimate triumph in which he will be victorious completely over all the evil at the Last Day. So we read in the 2nd Psalm, the 9th verse, “Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” The Shorter Catechism also speaks of the Christ as restraining the enemies of God. And while God is not the author of sin, God does set limits to sin. He is active in connection to sin, and one way in which he is active is in setting limits beyond which the devil and evil men are not able to go. He overrules sin to the glory of his name, and makes the wrath of man to praise him, as we read in Psalm 76 verse 10.
Now finally, a word may be spoken with respect to the subject of the eternity of the Mediator’s Kingdom. Good men have expressed themselves differently on this particular subject, and many have been impressed by the words that we find in 1st Corinthians, the 15th chapter, and the 24th and following verses where we read: “Then cometh the end, when he (that is, when Christ) shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.” And then especially in verse 28, “And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.” Well, a number of people, and not only the heretical Socinians who would deny the deity of Christ on the basis of this passage, but even good men have sometimes taken this passage to teach that Christ will have completed his Mediatorial work, and will hand the Mediatorial Kingdom over to the Father, and shall from that point on, be King only as God exercising the essential Kingdom, which the Socinaians, of course, deny. But orthodox men would agree that Christ as God will certainly be King for all eternity and is unchangeably such, but it is held by these people that the Mediatorial Kingdom is here taught to be terminated.
But is that necessarily the teaching of these words in 1st Corinthians 15? I do not think so. When it is stated that, “Then cometh the end,” it is not the end of the Kingdom, but rather it is the end of time that is in view here. The delivering up the kingdom to God, even the Father, is not an abdication of Christ’s Kingship, but it is simply the manifestation of the fact that he has fulfilled the commission that was given to him as King in the accomplishment of redemption, both in purchasing it and in applying it, so that his people now are presented as finally saved. One might understand the Kingdom here as referring rather to the people over whom Christ rules, rather than his sovereignty in ruling. It is certainly not that he is to abdicate his sovereignty, but the words teach that he does then present the Kingdom that he rules over unto the Father. I think this is a good sense of the words “his delivering up of the Kingdom to God”. But some also have suggested that the emphasis in this passage is on Christ’s rule in placing his enemies under his feet and the completion of his work of overcoming his enemies, and that this work also will be presented by him certainly to the Father.
But in any case, one is not to infer from the language of verse 24 that the Mediatorial Kingdom of the Savior is to be terminated. When it is stated in verse 25, “He must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet,” as in the verse of Psalm 110, as referred to here, the force of the word “till (until)” is not that after he has put all enemies under his feet he won’t reign any more, but it simply means that up to this time, as long as he has enemies to put under his feet, he will reign, and in the course of his reigning he will accomplish this. So, one is not to jump to the conclusion that the word “till” has in it the implication that at this time his reign will terminate. It is an interesting parallel that shows that this usage is found elsewhere in Scripture as appears in Psalm 123 where we read in verse 2; “Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the LORD our God, until that he have mercy upon us.” Well, it does not mean that after the Lord has mercy upon us our eyes no longer look unto to him, but it simply means that up to the time that the Lord has mercy on us, our eyes look to him as the eyes of a servant to the master.
And finally, that great erroneous claim that is made from verse 28 of 1st Corinthians 15 in this matter does not really have a solid foundation. As we quoted earlier, “And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.” We will just ask the question: In what sense is the Son said to be subject unto the Father? Now, we reject the heresy of those who deny the full deity of Christ, and who would maintain that he has any sort of subordination to the Father. In his pre-incarnate nature as God he is not subordinated to the Father. He is not subject to the Father as God. He is equal with the Father. He counted it not robbery to be equal with God; so that it can only be as man and as Mediator that he is said to be subject to the Father. But he is already subject to the Father. As man and as Mediator, he was subject to the Father from the time of his assuming human nature. So it is not something that will take place for the first time that he will become subject unto the Father in that great Day. And similarly, it cannot really be said that God is less than “all in all” now. It is not as though there is any change in the nature of God that he should become “all in all” and not be “all in all” up to that time. It surely is rather a manifestation of the fact that God is “all in all”, and that Christ as Mediator is in subjection unto the Father. Any claim to the occurrence of such an event would be impossible in the nature of the case.
Well, if this passage in 1st Corinthians 15 is so understood, there can be no objection to taking at its face value the many statements of Holy Scripture with regard to the everlasting character of the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. We can only mention one or two of them: Psalm 45 and verse 6: “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre”, and similarly in Psalm 72:17 and Daniel 2:44. We find in these passages with respect to Christ’s reigning for ever and ever that his kingdom is declared to be an everlasting Kingdom.
That the word “everlasting” is sometimes used relatively does not destroy the force of these declarations of the Word of God. The permanent union of the two natures in the person of Christ, and the mystical union of Christ and his church testifies the permanence of his Mediatorial Kingdom after the temporal modes of administration have ceased.
A few words of application: Sinners, lay down the arms of rebellion, and enlist in the service of the King of kings. Be not found in the number of those who know not God and obey not the gospel, on whom this Kingdom will take vengeance at the last day.
This edition of the text combines the transcription of a recorded audio together with Dr. Young’s hand written sermon notes. Some editing was done for ease of publishing. Use of underlining and italics are the editor’s.~~~