Some of the most edifying activities held in conventions are the discussion groups. Those who participate in these groups not only grow in spiritual knowledge, but also, through discussion, grow in their knowledge of one another. The 1980 Convention had three discussion topics. Each topic was introduced by a student in our Protestant Reformed Seminary. We asked three delegates to prepare reports, both on the seminarian’s introduction and on comments concerning the topic that were made in the group they attended.
By Amy Huisken
On Tuesday, July 22, the second day of the 1980 convention, we young people discussed the subject of the liturgy of our churches. Seminarian Deane Wassink introduced the subject in Wichers Auditorium on the Hope College campus.
Seminarian Wassink defined the liturgy to be all parts of our public worship service as well as the particular position of each part in the service. Not only are the salutation, benediction, singing, prayer, and sermon part of the liturgy, but also all the special forms of worship. These forms are found in the back of our Psalter, and include the forms for baptism, public confession of faith, excommunication, ordination, and marriage.
Many aspects of our liturgy are traditional, although some changes have been made since the days of our forefathers. Examples of these changes are seen in our communion services. Our present day custom is to remain seated while the elders pass around the bread and wine in individual servings. In the past history of the church, the members of the congregation who partook of the Lord’s Supper went to the front of the sanctuary and ate and drank from one loaf of bread and one cup of wine.
There is a broad, denominational liturgy, and there are also parts of the liturgy which are different in the various Protestant Reformed Churches. The fact that different benedictions, such as those found in II Corinthians 13:14, Jude 24-25, Numbers 6:24-26, are used in an example of these differences.
The origin of our liturgy reaches back to the history of the church before the days of Christ. Throughout all of Scripture, the pure preaching of the word is emphasized (Romans 10:13-15). The very early church developed organized singing and readings. During the early days of Paul’s ministry, deacons were ordained.
The Middle Ages has a unique contribution to our liturgy. Our liturgy is a reaction to the corruption and decline of the Roman Catholic Church at this time. Preaching, the most important part of the liturgy, became non-existent. The priests spoke Latin, which was not understood by the common people, so the preaching stopped. The common people were not allowed to drink the wine of the Lord’s Supper. Instead, priests drank it for them. The Reformation was very important for the development of our liturgy. The originator of our liturgy was John Alasko. The decision to follow a specific liturgy was made at the Synod of Dordt. This liturgy is basically the liturgy that we follow today.
The purpose of the liturgy is to aid in the worship of God. The liturgy is not an end in itself. The organ prelude and postlude, prayer, singing, sermon, collection of alms, and every other part of the liturgy are all used to aid the congregation in the worship of God. The liturgy helps to create orderliness, familiarity, and consistency in our worship services.
The sermon is the most important element of the liturgy. The sermon has the most central position in the liturgy because it is the chief means of grace. We hear God talking to us through the minister. We should not hear the man that is preaching to us, but we must hear God. The minister is merely an instrument God uses to enable us to hear Him.
The congregational singing is an important part in our worship service. The Protestant Reformed Churches use Psalter numbers for this singing. Article 69 of the Church Order states that “only the 150 Psalms of David, the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, the Twelve Articles of Faith, and Songs of Mary, Zacharias, and Simeon, the Morning and Evening Hymns, and the Hymn of Prayer before the sermon shall be sung”. Many hymns are man-centered; all Psalter numbers are based on the Word of God. We should not question the use of Psalter numbers, for the Psalms cover a range of subjects into which every aspect of our life can fit. What more can we need?
We use the King James Version of the Bible in our worship services. We use this version for four basic reasons. First, it is not contrary to sound doctrine. Secondly, it can be understood by the common man. Thirdly, the style is one of great beauty, dignity, and solemnity. Finally, it uses the language of the creeds. By reading the King James Version, one becomes familiar with the terms of justification, predestination, sanctification, regeneration, etc. Other modern version of the Bible, such as the Revised Standard Version, the Jerusalem Bible, the New English Bible, and the Living Bible, weaken or contradict such issues as the Virgin Birth, the Deity of Jesus, the Trinity, Creation, and sovereign predestination. To use one of these versions would be to deny the purpose of the liturgy, which is to aid in the worship of God.
We traditionally follow the liturgy adopted by the Synod of Dordt because we believe that it is a good liturgy to follow; it is practical for us to use in that it aids us in the worship of God. Too often, we follow our liturgy without thinking of the importance of each aspect of the worship service as it relates to the whole service. When this happens, the liturgy ceases to be traditional and becomes habitual. We must guard against this by remembering that the purpose of the liturgy and each aspect of it is to aid in the worship of God.
By Deborah Decker
Christian courtesy was the subject of our Wednesday discussion groups. Mr. Everett Buiter introduced this pertinent subject to the young people. He began by giving us the definition of courtesy: an action which expresses deep respect by bodily action or gesture. Courtesy implies, however, all sorts of manners which any man might have. Mr. Buiter stressed that the Bible should be our basis for courtesy. For example, in Matthew 7:12 we read, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that man should do to you, do ye even so to them for this is the law and the prophets.” And in Matthew 22 Jesus tells us, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” This means, Mr. Buiter told us, that where ever we go, whether it be to the beach, or to a discussion group, or to a lecture we must seek to do all things in love, even as we love ourselves. We all want to have fun at the conventions, but we must make sure that others do have fun.
From I Peter 3 we are taught that if we are courteous and have compassion on the brother we will have a happy life for “the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and His ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that are evil.”
Mr. Buiter concluded by exhorting us to be courteous now, at this point in our lives, while we’re still young so that we will be prepared for the responsibilities of the adult life.
An important point that was made at my discussion group was that our churches within themselves should be more friendly and warm, not only to strangers, but also to individual members. We decided that the size of a church affected the friendliness of a church, but we all felt that improvement in Christian courtesy was definitely needed in our churches.
Another good point was that often times we, as friends, stick with the so-called “cool” kids and ignore the shy, not-so-outgoing person, instead of making it a point to talk to him and include him in our fun. We asked ourselves the question, “Does our ‘cool’ group need our friendship as much as that person standing on the outside?”
Then the question was asked, “How far do we go in using our Christian courtesy?” After much discussion, we found that the Bible tells us, “It is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for welldoing than for evildoing.” Self-denial and brotherly love are the things which we must remember as we walk our life’s pathway.
We concluded that Christian courtesy is lacking in our midst, but that, if we make an effort to be courteous, it will become a natural part of our personality as we gain experience in practicing our Christian courtesy.
I see a grave lack of courtesy and respect not only in our own circles, but in the society around us. Look at the inconsiderate and rebellious nature of our own generation. Is it any wonder, then, that the world is experiencing so many problems today?
That is why we, as Christian young people, must fulfill our calling to be respectful and courteous to everyone. Do we want to be accused of being “just like the world”?
By Gary Lubbers
“Confession of Sin” was the morning discussion group topic on Thursday, July 24, at the PRYP Convention. It was introduced by Mr. Tom Miersma. Following are some questions and ideas he brought up just to get us going. First, he brought to light the reason for confession – that is sin. Then he questioned the relationship of confession of sin to conversion and also to repentance. Also mentioned was faith working the proper attitude in our heart. Then he got into the idea of how we as sinners can confess our sin and the benefits that God bestows on us as a result of our confession. Last of all, he mentioned our expression of confession of sin, and in connection, public confession of sin.
To help us in our discussion, we also had the outline written by Jon Smith and printed in the June-July issue of Beacon Lights.
The discussion group I was in was led by Mr. Harry Langerak. We more or less followed Mr. Smith’s outline. We started out reading and discussing the given Bible texts.
Proverbs 28:13 states that whoever confesses his sins will have mercy. When we sin our natural reaction is to try to hide our sin. But we must confess our sins, be truly sorrowful and realize how terrible our sins are. We need God’s mercy, which He bestows on us through Christ, only as a result of confession.
Psalm 51:1-5 is the reaction of David when Nathan comes to him after he had sinned with Bathsheba. He pleads with God to give him mercy. He acknowledges in verse 5 that we are born and conceived in sin and therefore need God’s mercy.
In the New Testament, I John 1:9 also states that we are forgiven and cleansed from unrighteousness only if we confess.
We understood James 5:16 to mean that talking about and confessing our sins to one another is good. Confessing to each other helps us realize that our sins are truly serious. We must be sorry and pray for each other’s forgiveness. Matthew 5:23 and 24 continues on this thought to say that if a brother sins against you, it is your responsibility to go to him, not wait for him to come to you.
Our Reformed Confessions also say something about confession of sin. The Heidelberg Catechism is divided into three sub-headings. They are “The Misery of man”, “Man’s Deliverance” and “Thankfulness”. We cannot be delivered and therefore thankful before we are sorry for our sins and confess them. Lord’s Day LI refers to the sixth petition in the Lord’s Prayer, “And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” Even as God by grace forgives us so that grace works in us so that we can forgive our neighbors.
We then went on to discuss public confession of sin. When we sin such that it offends other people, we must publicly confess that sin. For example, David numbered the people against God’s will – a presumptuous sin known to all the people.
Confession of sin is very important. We often out of habit say at the end of prayer, “Forgive our sins for Jesus’ sake. Amen.” We don’t always realize how serious this petition is! We are conscious of our sins and sorry for them not of ourselves, but on the ground of God’s sovereign salvation. We confess and plead for mercy only by the grace of God. God then bestows on us forgiveness for our sins and we express our gratitude as God fore-ordained in His eternal plan of salvation.