Dr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.
Removing the Unholy
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9NKJV
This morning we continue to look at Westminster Larger Catechism Question 190, which asks, “What do we pray for in the first petition?” It gives the answer, “In the first petition (which is, Hallowed be thy name,) acknowledging the utter inability and indisposition that is in ourselves and all men to honour God aright, we pray, that God would by his grace enable and incline us and others to know, to acknowledge, and highly to esteem him, his titles, attributes, ordinances, word, works, and whatsoever he is pleased to make himself known by; and to glorify him in thought, word, and deed: that he would prevent and remove atheism, ignorance, idolatry, profaneness, and whatsoever is dishonourable to him; and, by his overruling providence, direct and dispose of all things to his own glory.”
In the final part of today’s question dealing with the first petition of the Lord’s Prayer, the Westminster divines notice something that we are asking God to prevent. It is thought provoking to consider that part of the hallowing or making holy of God’s name involves hindering things that are taking place in God’s universe. Consider. Our God is all powerful and completely sovereign over all that He has made. He could immediately and completely hinder, prevent, and remove anyone or anything that is derivating in the least degree from the perfect hallowing of His holy name. We know that ultimately God will cause all things to perfectly hallow His name for all of eternity. For it must be that our most wise and just God will see to it that the most honorable of all things – His name – will receive all of the honor and glory to which it is due. It is unthinkable that God would not one day fully stop all of the dishonoring of His holy name. However, since He has not done that yet, we know that He must have a good reason or reasons for the delay.
I believe the verse cited at the head of this article gives us one of those reasons. Peter is writing about the promise of the second coming of Christ when all will be made right forever: all evil will be fully punished and all righteousness fully glorified. However, as that has not happened yet Peter addresses the question of why not. And he assures us that it is not as if God is slack or slow to do what He says but that He is waiting until all of His elect are brought to faith and repentance, for God is not willing for even one of those to whom He has chosen to give to His Son as a trophy of His grace to perish! Therefore, when we pray for God’s name to be hallowed by removing those things that are dishonorable to Him, we are ultimately praying for the second coming of Christ. For until Jesus returns and fully establishes His kingdom in all its perfection, there will continue to be in this world some atheism, ignorance, idolatry, and profaneness, for that is what it means to have human beings not yet brought to faith in Christ and repentance from sin.
Yet that is not the whole focus of our asking God to prevent and remove these evil things. In as much as God’s kingdom is present on earth in the church, we should be asking and desiring God to more and more prevent and remove atheism, ignorance, idolatry, and profaneness right now. And that not only in the unbelieving world but in the professing church of Jesus Christ. For all of these things, even atheism, are present to some degree in the still sin-laden hearts of the people of God who remain in the flesh and so unperfected in this life. Surely we would all admit to ignorance – and that not innocent but sinful ignorance – in some things. Surely we would all agree with Calvin that our hearts continue to be idol factories, producing and tempting us to idolatry at every turn and in every good work. And even though we are counted righteous and holy before God due to the grace of justification, surely we would all admit that in and of ourselves we continue to be profane and sinful. And it should be – it must be – deep in the heart of every believer a great longing to see these remaining areas of sin totally removed from our hearts forever. The good news of the gospel is they will be one day, yet until then we can and should see real growth in these areas, so that we ought to pray this petition in expectant faith!