One of the many blessed virtues which the Holy Spirit has bestowed upon His Church throughout all the ages is a clear conception of the antithesis as first announced in Paradise, as recorded for us in Genesis 3:15 and further revealed throughout Holy Writ as God’s method of realizing His kingdom in the course of history. We may conceive of this plan in two major revelations, namely, the separation of Israel from all the heathen nations and the spiritual-ethical separation of the Church in the world.
To the extent the Church adheres to that truth, they truly represent the cause of God: to the extent they deny it, teach otherwise, or neglect to teach it, they truly represent the cause of Satan. It is of utmost importance that we ever keep before us a proper appreciation of this blessed heritage and earnestly strive to maintain this throughout our generations.
So deeply does the doctrine of the antithesis permeate the Church’s fulfillment of its mission that it is not in the least surprising that it should be the target of the enemy’s assaults. And we may hastily add, with immense comfort to the believers, that such attacks cannot even harm the cause of God, because such opposition automatically sets the enemy on the unfavorable side of, but still within the sphere of this antithesis. “Even the wrath of man shall praise Thee: Thy design it shall fulfill”, Psalter No. 207.
It is from observations of the working out of this antithesis, which we can see, but to a limited degree, that this contribution finds its origin. And with it is a desire to encourage each other to not only discern, but also to avoid the pitfalls that constantly appear in the middle of our pathway when we are tempted to compromise with those who would discredit this doctrine.
At this point, a word of explanation for using the words in the theme may be in place. The word principle we would maintain in its usual meaning, namely, a proper evaluation of and an adherence to that which is right. The word principal is sometimes used to denote a certain sum of money: thus, a possession. It is this “possession” quantity that we should like to borrow as part of our theme and that with the added meaning of stewardship.
In His good council God has always provided those within the sphere of His covenant with principal. Unto Israel were committed the oracles, the laws, civil and ceremonial and ordinances for sacrificing: even precepts upon precept, in order that they should in true principle walk in the fear of Jehovah and with expectation look for the coming of the Promised One. But so corruptly had they used their entrusted principal that, except for the remnant that should be saved, the darkest woes were spoken over them.
And when the promised Messiah became manifest in the fullness of time, the hosts of darkness sought to destroy Him. “This is the heir, let us kill him”. Further, throughout the ministry of Jesus, the wicked Scribes and Pharisees violently opposed His antithetical teaching and sought to do away with Him in an effort to retain their allotted principal for selfish reasons and to maintain their self-pride and their esteem with the people.
The early history of the New Testament Church was marked by a deep faith. The testimony of Scripture is that “great grace was upon them all”. But persecution stalked them and many became martyrs for their faith. How exactly the prophesy of Jesus is fulfilled: “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you….if they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you”. But Satan would not always go about as a roaring lion. He would come as an angel of light. He would come with interpretations of Scripture that would appeal to the carnal mind. After the good seed had been sown, he would sow the tares. Arminianism and Pelagianism crept in and our fathers sought to combat these evils by setting forth sound interpretations of the doctrine of Scripture, with the result that the Three Forms of Unity came into existence. With the aid of these confessions the churches of the Reformation could determine the Scriptural basis for their teachings and the excommunication of the wolves that wore sheep’s clothing.
Under this arrangement and with a faithful use of the keys of the Kingdom, we would expect that the church as institute would enjoy uninterrupted freedom. However, the antithesis is not only ever present, but also ever working. Persecution arises from within. Through a long period of years, the church had harbored teachings containing erroneous conceptions of the presentation of the gospel and the significance of the covenant, both with leanings toward Arminianism. Instead of cleansing the churches of these errors, leaders thought it expedient to expel from their midst those who maintained a soundly Reformed interpretation of Scripture and the Confessions with respect to the doctrine of God’s sovereign grace and matters relating to reformed church polity. (Consult “History of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America”).
In late years much the same method of sinful, hierarchical use of church authority was made in the Netherlands. As a result, a Romish system of church government, which makes the decisions of a so-called major (correct term: broader) assembly binding upon all constituents, without regard or respect for the autonomy of local churches.
This sad portion of church history is related for the specific purpose of encouraging Protestant Reformed youth to highly value the heritage (principal) left unto us, namely, a truly Reformed conception of the preaching of the Word and of church government.
The evil spirit of opposition to the well defined truth of God’s sovereign grace and its resulting denial of the antithesis is indeed a sad commentary on the history of many churches today. And how intensely this opposition increases when we as churches endeavor to enlighten others on Reformed doctrines. This is evidenced not only in the conducting of regular divine services, but particularly in our missionary work.
This divinely ordained antithesis will continue as long as the church remains in its militant stage. But thanks be to God, Who has given her the victory through Jesus Christ, her Lord.
When His righteous judgments come, Strong to save and to destroy; All iniquity is dumb, All the righteous sing for joy. Who Jehovah wisely heed, In His works His mercies read.
The initial contribution of Mr. Andrew Peterson to Beacon Lights, writer of the above article, is very welcome indeed and we feel assured that our readers enjoy hearing from new contributors. Mr. Peterson, an elder and clerk of our Prot. Ref. Church at Grand Haven, Michigan, is a charter member of that congregation and it was in the basement of his home in Spring Lake that the congregation first held its services. Once again—thanks to Mr. Peterson for his splendid contribution! ED.