Imagine that today is the day of your wedding. You have been anxiously awaiting this exciting moment for quite a long while now, and the time is here. Going to the closet to pull out that beautiful white gown, a symbol of purity, you think of how your husband will feel when he sees you. It was not easy picking out this dress; you know the challenge of finding just the right one. Yes, this is the perfect gown that will cause him so much joy when he beholds you in it. After all you love him so much, and would do anything to please him.
Now we too as Christians have a husband, we are the bride of Christ. We are to make ourselves ready for the wedding feast. “And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband,” Revelation 21:2. We are to keep pure the white robes of Christ’s Righteousness. We seek to keep ourselves undefiled because we love our husband, we love Christ. What a husband is He, there can not be found one more loving and giving than our Lord. Now there can be no doubt that we attempt to keep our garments clean by avoiding sin, and doing that which is good. We determine what is good by the Word of God, which is “a lamp unto our feet, and a light unto my path,” Psalm 119:105. When God reveals His will in any given area, we are to obey based on the principle of love. To act contrary to His Word shows either ignorance of His word, or rebellion against it. In either case we must seek to know what our Husband would have us to do, and then do it.
What is the Bride of Christ to wear? I do not mean spiritually, but physically. It is summertime again and our clothing changes. This is a difficult time, because all the world uses this time as an excuse to expose their bodies. It is a time to wear provocative clothing, in order to draw the attention from those of the opposite sex. There is not only this temptation in the world of unbelievers, but even in us. We must beware of falling prey to the temptations of the world, and our own flesh. We must not follow the fashions of the world because they are popular. No man will stand before the exalted Lord, and plead that they dressed like the world, because everyone else was doing it. Some do not feel that we have any direction in this area from God’s Word. Some feel that you are being legalistic for speaking of the need to be modest, even challenging you to show them where in the Bible it says you may not wear a skirt above the knee, or wear a modern bathing suit in public. God’s people have the Holy Spirit, and we must pray that he will give us guidance in these areas where we do not find clear direction in the Bible. We can be assured that if we come with humble hearts pleading for guidance, he will surely give it. Yet none the less, God’s Word is not silent on the issue of clothing.
Back in Genesis 3:7 we read: “And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.” When our first parents sinned, they became keenly aware of their impurity. Their first reaction was to cover themselves, which is evidence that they were no longer righteous. God has ordained that our unclothed body reminds us of our sinful nature. Adam and Eve sought to cover their shame by making aprons (KJV), or girdles. Clothing should be a reminder of our need of a righteous robe, to cover our shame. This is exactly what
God provided for our first parents. In Genesis 3:21: “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.” Here we have a picture of the blood shedding necessary to bring us righteousness, along with a covering to hide our shame. This is symbolic of the wedding garment that we must all wear when meeting Jesus. Now the passage does not say that God made them aprons of animal skins, but covered them with something superior in His omniscient mind, coats. The Hebrew word coat means tunic, a long shirt-like garment usually of linen. This word carries the meaning of covering, indicating a purpose of concealing from view. Thankful they should have been to receive a garment that covered more of their shame, as well as picturing the need for the sacrifice of Christ. Do we dress to cover our shame? Do we see our own sinfulness; do we realize that clothing should humble us, rather then being a means of self-exaltation?
The Apostle Paul has something to say about the attire of a godly women in I Timothy 2:9, 10: “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.” We read here about modest apparel. Is this a general term that is subjective at best, or does it teach us something important? The term modest in the Greek is kosmios, which means well-arranged, seemly, modest, according to Thayer’s Lexicon. The Greek word for apparel is katastole, This word is comprised of two words, Kata and Stole. Kata has the meaning of hang down according to Thayer, while Stole is a word for a particular garment. According to W. E. Vine, Stole “denotes any stately robe, a long garment reaching to the feet or with a train behind. It is used of the long clothing in which the scribes walked, making themselves conspicuous in the eyes of men, Mark 12:38.” A noted commentator Adam Clarke in his commentary on I Timothy 2:9 says “The stole, stola, seems to have been originally very simple. It was a long piece of cloth, doubled in the middle, and sewed up on both sides, leaving room only for the arms; at the top, a piece was cut out, or a slit made, through which the head passed. It hung down to the feet, both before and behind, and was girded with the zona round the body, just under the breasts. It was sometimes made with, sometimes without, sleeves; and, that it might sit the better, it was gathered on each shoulder with a band or buckle.” Later on he says this of the stole “A more modest and becoming dress than the Grecian was never invented; it was, in a great measure, revived in England about the year 1805, and in it, simplicity, decency, and elegance were united;” Now if Paul gave this as an example of how a godly women should be adorned, oh how saddened he would be to see the state of affairs today.
In the book of I Peter we have further instruction concerning how one should adorn oneself. In I Peter 3:3 we read: “Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting of the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” Now we have a list of items, which Peter inveighs against. His purpose is not necessarily to condemn each item, but to rather focus on what is truly important. Godliness should be our goal, not outward appearance; to focus on the outward betrays an improper placement of the affections. You could hear the Apostle pleading that we ought to spend more time looking at how we could be more beautiful on the inside, rather then wasting so much time with the outside. Do we spend as much time each day reading God’s Word, meditating on that Word, praying, and reading good Christian books as we do getting dressed, putting on makeup, and doing our hair and nails?
Let us again turn to view what the Apostle Paul has to say. In I Corinthians 6, and 10 he deals with that which is lawful. What do these passages have to do with our clothing? After having said all the above, some may claim that the Apostle has said all things are lawful for me. I do not know how such a plea could be made in this area, but yet we must consider the argument. I Corinthians 10:23, 24 “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient; all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth.” This is how God through the pen of Paul qualifies those things not directly spoken against in Scripture. These guidelines determine what the Apostle shall do, and they are based on love. All things are not expedient, all things edify not, and I will not be brought under the power of any, show our need to be loving to the brother. There are certain things that we might do, that can cause our brother to stumble. We may not do these things, but rather we are told to Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth. To wear clothing that is immodest, can provoke our brother to temptation and sin, for we are prone to the lust of the eyes as I John 2:16 warns us. We may not be the best judge of what is modest, so better to err on the side of over modesty (if that is possible) than to miss on the other side, and be a source of stumbling to our fellow man. This section is not meant to say that our attire is an area of Christian liberty, as we have seen we do have instruction how we are to adorn ourselves, but rather to show that immodesty should never be argued from Christian liberty.
Summertime is now upon us, and all the world shall begin to shed big baggy outfits, in favor of tight, short, and more revealing attire. Let us battle against being tempted to do the same. When you are tempted to put on the bathing suit, and go into public, consider what effect this will have on those who see you. Is there really much difference between underwear and the bathing suits of today? Would you meet with your brothers, or walk around in front of strangers wearing your underwear? Of course you would not. Even when we meet for church, the temptation is to wear short skirts, high slits, or see through white blouses when it begins to warm up. First of all, we dress for God. His all Seeing Eye knows what we wear, whether inside or outside of our worship service, so we must always be modest. Yet to bring possible temptation to the house of prayer is truly sad. We come to repent, and praise God, not to fend off temptation. Oh let us love one another. I have refereed mainly to the attire of women in this article, and the reason is two-fold. Women are more prone to dressing to attract men, or at least are generally more concerned about their outward appearance. Also the Word of God speaks of women as being a source of temptation in a way that it does not speak of men. So please do not feel as though you were being singled out ladies.
In conclusion let us remember these guiding principles. Clothing should be a reminder of our sinfulness, which should make us humble, not a source of self-exaltation. We dress to cover, not to reveal. Our dress should be modest, not by the world’s standards, nor even by our standards, but by the standard that Almighty God sets. Do not mistake the stole for being a culture-bound garb, as if the people lived in a cold climate that required long robes. No, it was a very warm region, it must be obvious that they wore these clothes because they were indeed modest. We must not focus on our outward beauty and dress nearly as much as on our inward spirituality. We must dress with our brother in mind. We should seek not our own welfare to the exclusion of our neighbor, but we are to esteem each other higher then ourselves. Let us love the neighbor, by not tempting him. If we use these guidelines, we will show that we love our husband, who is in fact called the Word. We will also show our love of the neighbor, which is called a fulfilling of the royal law, according to James, when we follow these principles. On top of it all, we will be more inclined to draw the attention of a true godly man, a man who will love you because you love God. Let us adorn ourselves for our husband on earth, and more importantly our husband in heaven. ❖
Let us suppose that the government forced you to live with a known traitor. Not just any villain, but someone who sought your ill. A person so consumed with self gratification that he would not only have you condemned to death if only he could fill his hearts lust, but would not give a second thought if you were cast into Hell. What a grievous situation this would be? Would anyone feel comfortable in such an environment? Would you not always be on your guard, praying to God for strength and protection? Only a fool would be careless, knowing that such an evil lurked about his abode. The truth of the matter is that we all, every one of us, live with such a foul person. This malcontent is called the old man, and you shall dwell with him all the days of this earthly life. How does the knowledge of this fact affect you?
To my mind, this is an important element in why we as Christians are to live a life of separation from the wicked. Yes, the antithesis is so important in this day and age. We must never forget our need to be separated in service to the Holy One of Israel. We as God’s people are called to be Holy as God is Holy. Practically this is impossible of ourselves. The old man is with us unto the end. We must rely upon the righteousness of another not only for our salvation, but also for our sanctification. Even if we are unable in this present life to hate sin as we ought, we are responsible nonetheless to keep far from it. The truth of our inability to remain unspotted from the world, apart from the grace of God is a strong motivator to flee from the appearance of evil.
Not only does scripture warn us to not trust in our own strength in fighting against our sinful inclinations, but it gives us examples of great men of faith who, for a time, did trust in the arm of flesh. We have the example of righteous Noah who became drunk, and that after so great a deliverance. How about the example of Moses who was lifted up in self-righteousness at the waters of Meribah? What about the man after God’s own heart, king David, who not only committed adultery, but murder? How about the rock, Peter, who denied his Lord, and also fell pray to the opinions of the Jews. Who of us can say, “I am stronger than they? These may deny thee, Lord, but I will never deny thee?” Take heed that ye stand lest ye fall!
How may we learn from our fathers? What do their errors teach us? Noah rather than walking humbly before his God overindulged in wine and thereby encouraged the transgression of his son Ham. Moses the meekest man left his goodly course and lifted up with pride, smote the rock twice. Thus he manifested his sinful nature by being disobedient to his God and Redeemer. King David was cast down at his own home, by looking upon a woman other than his wife. He did not turn away his eyes from beholding vanity, but with lust in his heart he committed adultery, and then completed the course that ended in murder. Peter also lifted up with pride and feeling that he could stand, was cast down quickly by his adversary.
The common factor in the falling of these men was they left the straight and narrow, by trusting in themselves; being unmindful of the old man within. They took their eyes off God, and did what was right in their own eyes. Any time we walk in a way contrary to God’s Word, we then leave the narrow path that leads to life. Surely God will protect and preserve us no doubt, but to be so bold as to disregard his precepts is to invite a great fall accompanied by the heavy chastening hand of LORD. Just because we are on the path does not guarantee that it will be smooth and easy. We often find difficulties on the road that leads to life, which we must overcome. We may be doing our Christian duty when along comes a great temptation. Sometimes we are called to fight, at other times to flee. How we react to these situations on the path also determine whether we stand or fall. In some situations we are to fight such as against the sinful inclinations that war against our soul. Other times we are commanded to flee, such as when overtaken by the temptation of fornication, or idolatry. In general, we are to avoid all that would tend toward sin. If a situation does not look God honoring, it is best to stay far from it.
We must with all of our might strive to live a life of purity and chastity. We must do all within our power to abide by God’s Word, with strong prayers and supplications that God would defend his name by keeping us from sin. As we are doing so it should be with great earnestness, as we each with all of our hearts desire Christ’s honor and glory. We must be bold to admit our weaknesses, not trusting in our own ability, or holiness, but beckoning God to fill us with his Holy Spirit that we might stand against all of our foes. If we think we can stand strong when Noah, Moses, David, and Peter could not, we deceive ourselves. Our Heidelberg Catechism, Answer 127, expresses our duty in this area very beautifully:
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil;” that is since we are so weak in ourselves, that we cannot stand a moment; and besides this, since our mortal enemies, the devil, the world, and our own flesh, cease not to assault us, do thou therefore preserve and strengthen us by the power of thy Holy Spirit, that we may not be overcome in this spiritual warfare, but constantly and strenuously may resist our foes, till at last we obtain a complete victory.
Stand on your guard knowing that not only do you face great and powerful enemies, in the world and devil, but that you also have one within you. And this fiend is a relentless enemy that never sleeps, but tirelessly conceives of new ways to satisfy himself while causing you misery. Cling dear fellow saint to the Word of God; seek to be obedient always, for we know that it is better than sacrifice. Keep in the heavenly path, and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. Do not trust in your own strength to fend off the traitor within, but trust in the Almighty, knowing that he will make you more than a conqueror in this battle. Forget not the importance of those of like precious faith. As our father David had his Jonathan, we ought to turn to our brothers in Christ to help and encourage us in this struggle. Let us fight the good fight of faith under the banner of the Captain of our salvation. May we stand upon the watchtower of our souls by abstaining from all appearance of evil, so that we shall not be cast down by the traitor within. May God give us grace. ❖
Great Iron teeth which rip and devour. A fearsome beast which knows no mercy. Who can stand before this creature. The dead lay strewn in the wake of him. What makes the creature so frightening is that it looks like a lamb. Its deceptive nature is most fearful, for who would be afraid of a lamb? Was not our Savior called the Lamb of God? Yes, this beast is so awful because no one suspects that it is capable of such mayhem. Do we look like a lamb but speak as a dragon? Do our tongues roam about the earth, seeking whom they may devour?
If we are honest with ourselves, we all are guilty of dragon speech at times. Who of us has not used our mouth for cruelty? I know that I have. The Psalmist said “Behold they belch out with their mouth: swords are in their lips: for who say they, doth hear?” How often have we spoken maliciously about a brother when he was not around? Do we not say in our heart, who doth hear? Do we forget that we are called to love our brother? Must we be reminded that the Lord is at hand? When we seek to portray our neighbor in a poor light, we sin. An hypocrite with his mouth destroyeth his neighbor: but through knowledge shall the just be delivered. Let us not be called hypocrites. How grievous it is to take the name of Christ in vain. We do that when we say “I am a Christian”, and then speak evil of our neighbor.
We also speak as a dragon when we use vulgar language. Paul tells us; let no filthy communication proceed out of your mouths. I can not help but believe that the apostle refers to (among other things) speech that is not of an upright character, primarily the use of four letter words and remarks which degrade God’s gift of marital sexual intimacy, or inflame others to lust. Some may disagree with the inclusion of all four letter words under filthy communication. Perhaps if we examine what Paul said to the Ephesians about foolish talking not to be named among the saints, we can see that four letter words are at best foolish talking. Is there not any other word that could describe the meaning of one of the cherished four letter words? Of course there is. Far more importantly, these words are viewed by Christian and infidel alike to be something Christ and His people do not speak. These words offend others, which should keep us from their use if for no other reason. Do we use words that we would never say in the presence of our mother? Would we fear to use certain terms in a conversation with a minister? Jesus said: “O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” If we dare testify before God and men that Christ has begun a work of purity in our lives, then let our speech be pure.
How are we to use our tongues, that we may speak not as a dragon, but as a lamb? Lord’s Day 40, Answer 107 states that God forbids envy, hatred, and anger, he commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves; to show patience, peace, meekness, mercy, and all kindness, towards him, and prevent his hurt as much as in us lies; and that we do good, even to our enemies. Notice we are to prevent the hurt of our neighbor, which would cause us to help him, not hurt him. We should not expose the weaknesses of our neighbor, but rather to seek to help him. If we can give good counsel to him, we must love him by doing this. If we do not feel that we can help him, we surely have no reason to add to his burden. I feel that we often tell ourselves that we speak about our neighbor, because we are concerned about him. This may be true, sometimes even necessary, but most of the time we do not aid him by sharing information about him with others. Far too often what happens is, we bring him down in the eyes of those whom we speak to. This is not showing love to our brother. Is it not your experience, that you hear something negative about a person, and when you meet the person, you already have made judgements about him. We must be extremely careful in this area.
It is very important that we not only do not speak evil of our neighbor, but that we speak well of him. Our calling is to love our neighbor, and we show we love him by speaking kindly of him. We should see strong points in our neighbor rather than always seeing his weaknesses. Let us encourage our brothers when they do well. We ought to see the good in our brothers, seeing them as bearers of the Holy Spirit. Who would be so foolish as to speak evil of a child of God? Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? Even if our neighbor is not a brother in Christ, we must still apply this principle. We should be careful that we do not look down with pride on our unbelieving neighbor, “for who maketh thee to differ from another? And what hast thou that thou didst not receive?” As God’s people we must love even our own enemies, and one way we do this is by speaking well of them.
Not only must we speak well of our neighbor, but we are also called to defend his name. Yes, when we are in the presence of others we may not sit by quietly, and passively partake of their sins. We must stop such hurtful talk, because we are to love our neighbor, but also because we love those who are sinning by speaking evil. Open rebuke is better then secret love. We are called to defend the names of others. Would we not want others to defend ours? Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. This is the word of God, partake not in the sins of others, but rather speak words of righteousness.
Finally, let us speak words that are pure and true. We should speak more of our wonderful and merciful Savior that we serve. It is He that has destroyed the Dragon. It is He that has sent His Holy Spirit into our hearts, that we might crucify those fleshly lusts, those desires to speak after the manner of the Dragon. We must let our light shine forth, and how better than to have our Redeemers name upon our lips. Our words should be as the balm of Gilead, healing and soothing. We should be in the habit of saying the Lord willing when we make plans to do something. We often get caught up in the world, and forget that it is God that will decide what we do and when we will do it. Using this phrase will help us remember God in our busy daily lives. We should speak words of edification, words that encourage our brother. We should also be mindful of our idle words that tend to grumbling, and murmuring. These are not good, for we should rejoice in all things. Let us make a heroic effort to use language that we would not be afraid to use in the presence of Jesus Christ our Lord. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?”
May God give us grace to honor Him with our speech.
Dear Brothers in Christ,
I am writing in response to the article titled “What the Georgetown Young People Learned in Houston,” in the July 1996 issue of the Beacon Lights. I must say I was surprised by what I found in the article. With all due respect to the elder who wrote this article and the pastors associated with this trip, I will state my concerns.
In the third paragraph of the article we find the description of a room filled with pictures and statues of false gods. Some of their names are Rama-Chandra, Krishna, Varaha, and Vishnu. “This is a room for worshipping,” the article states. In the same paragraph, we have the description of a giggling child coming into the room while some of our young people are present. We are told the reason for the child’s laughter is because they did not know that they were to take off their shoes in this room because it is sacred. What were these young girls from our churches doing in this room? What the article states is that they were unpacking. They were assigned to sleep in this room. The author states that the Georgetown Young People were in Houston, in order to expose them to an evangelistic enterprise, so they could see how it was properly done. The author states “It almost goes without saying that God is glorified in all of these things.” Was God glorified in this enterprise?
I would like to discuss several items that concern me the most.
- A lack of important information
- A negative example to our impressionable young people
- A blurring of the line regarding the antithetical life
The article seems to lack some important information. The article is very clear that our young people lived in the home of an unbeliever and slept in his idol room, but does not clearly indicate that our young people presented the gospel to the people that they stayed with. The article indicates devotions were held and ministers and group leaders were present at times to make applications. It does not tell us that the idolatry was condemned. This was a serious oversight on the part of the author. I believe that the gospel was presented by our people, however it should have been clarified in the article.
The article spoke of the necessity of people taking off their shoes upon entering this Idol room. The article does not indicate whether they did take off their shoes or not. This is an important matter that should have been clarified. I understand that they did not remove their shoes.
It is not my intention to scrutinize the author’s writing, but to make sure that those who read the article might not have misconceptions concerning what was written. I believe that the people involved in planning this trip love our children and had the best of intentions regarding them. However, we must be very careful to not be blinded by good intentions, but to walk according to GOD’s word.
The article speaks of several situations in which our young people were involved. It speaks of some of our young girls sleeping in a Hindu man’s idol room. This room was still in use, as the children “saw Ravi doing the daily chores of incense and chants.” The article speaks of our young people attending a function at a local Baptist church. The article indicates that they were involved in social games, at which time the minister of this church called them together to bow their heads and pray. The minister said “If you accept Jesus into your heart, raise your head and look at me.”
I find these activities to be very disturbing. Are we as God’s people immune to the assaults of Satan? Is it not possible that our children, and even us adults, are impressionable? We send our children to our Protestant Reformed schools to keep them separate from the world as long as possible to teach them the truth. Do we tell our children that getting drunk is a great sin in the sight of God, and then take them to a bar to show them the evils of drinking? The Bible tells us to flee from idolatry. Should we not heed this warning? “Come out from among them and be ye separate.” How does II Cor. 6:14-17 harmonize with these activities?
I contend that this was not the proper means of educating and evangelizing the Indian people. I believe that our young people’s witness was compromised by staying in the homes of these peoples. We are to have contact with unbelievers, else we would have to go out of the world. This intercourse should provoke those who see us in our daily lives to ask of the hope which is within us. We must tell those wallowing in the mire of sin to repent and seek after God if happily they may find him.
This Hindu man’s household had to receive the impression that “my beliefs are not all that bad”(my words). How could he not get this impression, after all they were not only staying in his home but also sleeping in his gods’ room? Actions speak louder than words. No matter how strong our young people’s testimony was it would have been nullified as soon as they walked back into the house to slumber for the night. The scriptures say, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.” How were our people maintaining the antithetical life under the given circumstances?
We must remember that God uses ordained ministers of the gospel to call His people out of darkness. “For how shall they hear without a preacher.” We must always be conscious that God’s word spoken by His minister is sufficient to reach all of his elect people. It is certainly true that we as individuals are to live in such a way that we speak of our blessings to others and give an answer of the hope that is within us. But we are not called to be “little missionaries” who travel across the country. That is what Arminians believe. Our calling is to be witnesses where we are in our daily lives.
I pray that I have not offended any without a cause, and that God will forgive me if I have over stepped my bounds. I love our church and hope that it will flourish until Christ comes again.
Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen. I John 5:21.
Member of Peace Protestant
Response to Jay Martz’s letter:
The report published in the Beacon Lights concerning the visit of the Georgetown Young People has aroused interest both positive as well as negative. We have received much encouragement from all quarters, and for this we are thankful. But, as our brother’s letter shows, there are also criticisms. We are not surprised by this because the work of evangelism among the heathen in the USA is a relatively new labor among us. We are thankful for the concerns raised.
The activities in question were held under the auspices of our consistory, as well as with the approval of the Georgetown consistory, and with the involvement of our home missionary. Therefore, the criticisms are not leveled against the article or its author, but against all those who planned and supervised the activities reported in the article.
Nevertheless, since brother Martz’s complaint is directed against information brought by the article I wrote, the lot falls on me to respond. Let me clarify a couple things right away with four preliminary points:
- No compromise was made with the idol worshipers because they were explicitly warned from the Scriptures that idolatry is condemned by God. This was done both by the preaching and teaching as well as by the witness of the young people and the chaperons.
- The families who hosted our young people were those who had been coming to our worship services and other meetings. They were asking questions and spiritually struggling with the matter. They were selected as the ones in whose homes the young people might serve as a good witness, answer questions, and help those we have been working with to come to a greater understanding of the truth of the gospel of grace.
- This is very important—our young people did not by any means participate in the worship of idols in these homes. On the contrary, during the entire week our young people had group devotions around the Word of God and the Hindu hosts sat in on these sessions.
- Please note that there were older chaperons as well as pastors who were present not only at devotion times, but also at different meals, etc. The groups of ten who stayed in the homes were in no way in danger of being influenced by the hosts. The whole idea was that our young people may learn to be a godly influence upon these unbelievers.
Now, allow me to deal with some of the specific things mentioned in the letter. I will do this by giving additional information which I trust will help clear up the misunderstandings.
Ravi and his family had been attending our worship services and mid-week meetings off and on for about two years. Ravi is Hindu, his wife was raised Roman Catholic, and both of them were struggling with the call to repent and believe. The fact that he let the girls sleep in the ‘worship room’ shows how far he had come from the devout Hindu ways which prohibit any profane use of the room (no eating, no sleeping, no shoes).
The business in the article about the laughing child and the shoes was meant to point out that the child knew about the formal rules, even though the parents did not enforce them. He remembered when they were much more strict about these things. Whether the girls removed their shoes or not, it would have been a matter of social etiquette, and not an act of worship (see preliminary point 3, above). The article did not say that the idolatry was condemned. The letter is right about this. I could have made this point, but I did not because the subject of the article was what was learned by our young people. The young people learned that idolatry is a futile and pitiful attempt of man to obtain salvation by his own efforts. That point was made repeatedly.
For your information, my article was originally submitted to the Standard Bearer to be published with home missionary Rev. Miersma’s article relating to the same conference. When it was decided that Rev. Miersma’s article be published in the Standard Bearer, and mine in the Beacon Lights, I did not think to make changes. Looking back now, I probably should have broadened the scope of the article on account of its becoming a standalone report of the whole week. I would encourage you to read Rev. Miersma’s article in the July 1, 1996 issue of the Standard Bearer (page 426), titled “Reaching the Nations with the Gospel of Grace — An Evangelism Seminar in Houston.”
The letter states that the young people were “involved” in idol worship. They were NOT involved in it. They witnessed it. The pastors and leaders made sure they knew what they were seeing.
There is another concern brought out in the letter, which is the altar call at the social gathering attended by (some of) our young people. This concern should be relieved by a little closer reading of the article. That altar call was, as the article points out, an “unplanned and unexpected object lesson showing just how varied are the alternatives men in their ‘cunning craftiness’ devise to the truth of salvation.”
‘Cunning craftiness’ comes from Ephesians 4:14, and describes how men “lie in wait to deceive” us. But our young people were not deceived. The article made the point that they were not deceived because of their training in the doctrines of the Bible. They were not deceived because the overseeing ministers and leaders taught them the truth, reminded them of the truth they already knew, and reinforced the lessons they had been taught throughout their whole lives.
To clarify, the official schedule had the young people spending that Wednesday night in the hosts’ homes, relaxing with the families. When the possibility of going to the local church was brought up, we were assured it would be just ice cream and skating. But the providence of God brought about the unexpected turn of events, and the pastors and leaders later taught the obvious lesson, which was that there is no essential difference between heathen idol worship and Arminian freewillism.
The crafty Arminian, of course, denies this truth, and will seek every opportunity to ensnare us with emotional and psychological appeals. But his power over these young people withers when they remember the stark comparison between blatant and crude image worship and the pathetic attempt at self-salvation through raising a hand at a meeting.
Another misunderstanding was found in the statement that “this Hindu man’s household had to receive the impression that my beliefs are not all that bad.” The letter contains the idea that somehow we compromised with the idolaters. Again, by definition, the article’s intent was to relate what the young people learned, not what the heathens learned.
But the heathens definitely received the clear and unadulterated condemnation of idolatry. In fact, after one of the meetings in which Rev. Miersma spoke pointedly about the despicable nature of those who Hindus claim as gods, Ravi approached one of the young people outside the church, asking if he thought everything Rev. Miersma had said was true. The quick and confident answer, “Yes,” was a powerful testimony. Preaching the gospel and the lives of the saints are the entwined ways of presenting the gospel to the world. Ravi was so upset at the preaching of our pastors and by the clear testimony of our young people, that he has stopped coming to church. This is hardly the response to compromise.
The fact that the young people stayed at his house did not constitute becoming “unequally yoked.” Yoking is a bond, a partnership, or a marriage, and is forbidden. On the other hand, a light is not to be hid under a bushel, but put on a table so its beams reach the farthest corners of the room. Salt that loses its savor is thrown out, but salt that stays in the shaker is no better that savorless salt.
So, Biblical antithesis should not be confused with isolation. Idolatry, as such, is not limited to Hindus and other heathen religions who worship pictures and statues. Idolators are all around us. The ungodly worship houses, cars, and any other material thing, as the treasure of their lives. What should our attitude be towards them? If we are to do the work of evangelism properly, seriously, and willingly, we must be able to communicate with them. That means we must be willing to learn their language and about their ways, so we can bring God’s word to them. It is true that there is a sense in which we are to hate with a perfect hatred those who hate God. But we are not to confuse that with being unwilling to get to know the unbeliever, and, yes, to express genuine love and concern for his spiritual welfare. There is one very important reason why we may and indeed must befriend the unbeliever. It is to bring to such a one the glorious gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. God uses the preaching of His Word as well as the faithful witness of the saints. Our witness is not separate from the preaching, but our witness as saints is itself one of the fruits of preaching. I believe this is what the young people learned at the conference, and to their spiritual profit. Faithful preaching should be accompanied by an informed and zealous witness given by God’s people who are willing to communicate with the world in which they live.
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