Let me express my joy to you about two realities this evening. Of course, there are many things about which I could be happy in regard to our convention. We have a large audience. Besides the audience is not composed of old people who have lived their lives, but of young people who have yet to develop spiritually and to influence another generation for good.
But in particular, I am thankful for two specific realities. In the first place, I am thrilled with your convention theme: Being Reformed in 1986: Heritage and Calling. Note carefully that the theme of our convention is not Being Biblical in 1986. Many would consider that theme to be very appropriate. But it would not satisfy me for it is too general and vague. Your convention theme is specific. I am thrilled with your theme because it expresses that the Reformed Faith is the only Biblical faith. Your theme expresses the confidence with which we hold the Reformed Faith. In addition, I am happy with your theme because it speaks of Being Reformed. The word “Being” in your theme points to the idea of active obedience to the Word of God. Moreover, the order of the various sub-divisions of your theme also speak well of your understanding of the Christian faith; the first subdivision is “In Truth”, the second and the third are “In Godliness”, and “In Comfort.” This order calls our attention to the spiritual fact of life that godliness and comfort have as their foundation the truth believed and confessed.
The second reality of tonight’s meeting for which I am happy is that I may be privileged to speak to you on this blessed theme.
The Reformed Faith is the truth of God’s Word. The Reformed Faith is the gospel of Christ Jesus. This we believe with all our hearts. But the question arises, where do we have a brief, yet complete statement of the Reformed Faith? You probably would answer, the Bible is the statement of the Reformed Faith. Yes, but the problem is that the Baptist and the Roman Catholic and all others make the same claim. Mutually exclusive confessions both would make appeal to God’s Word. We have to be therefore more specific.
The statement of the Reformed Faith is to be found in our Reformed Creeds, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, and the Canons of Dordrecht. We do not deny that there are other faithful expressions of the Reformed Faith such as the Westminster Creeds. But for us the Reformed Faith is expressed in our Three Forms of Unity.
We should make mention of the specific content of the Reformed Faith. Negatively, we should understand that not all that Reformed preachers and theologians have said or written is necessarily correct and biblical. Of course not! The Creeds express the Reformed Faith for us. The main elements of the Reformed Faith are the doctrine of the covenant of God with His people in Christ Jesus, the doctrine of the absolute sovereignty of God over all His creatures, and the so-called TULIP doctrines; Total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and the preservation of the saints. These doctrines, and other doctrines held in common with all saints, are the Reformed Faith.
Our young people should clearly understand that the Protestant Reformed Churches are, therefore, confessionally Reformed. What does it mean to be “confessionally” Reformed? It means that we receive the Creeds as binding and limiting documents. The public writing and preaching of our ministers must conform to the Creeds. Every office bearer must sign the Formula of Subscription promising, thereby, to defend and maintain the Reformed Faith over against every heresy. To be confessionally Reformed implies, moreover, that those in our Churches who oppose the Reformed Faith must be charged with sin and brought to repentance. If after having been rebuked for their error and their continued impenitence, they are to be excommunicated from the Kingdom of Heaven. Those in Reformed Fellowships who oppose the Reformed Faith often portray a facade of gentleness, love and kindness to deceive God’s people. To be confessionally Reformed as Churches, as we are, means that a man is held responsible for his opposition to the Reformed Faith, even though in other ways he may be a very nice congenial man.
Our history as Churches is marked by two outstanding events that demonstrate the commitment of our people to being Reformed according to the Scripture and as it is interpreted in our Creeds. In 1924 our fathers and grandfathers were expelled from the Christian Reformed Church, because they held to the conviction, no matter what the cost, that the theory of common grace is contrary to the teaching of the Creeds and of Scripture. Our fathers for the sake of being Reformed accepted the hardships of being small, weak, and scorned. Again in 1953 your parents and grandparents were called upon to pay the price of discipleship. We were confronted with our calling to require repentance of unfaithful men who were attempting to introduce into our churches doctrines contrary to the Creeds and Scripture. Rather than repent; they left our fellowship. Whole congregations were uprooted. Have you heard of Oskaloosa, Iowa; Rock Valley. Iowa; Manhatten, Montana; Sioux Center, Iowa; Bellflower, California? We had congregations in these communities. These congregations have been scattered to the winds. Churches destroyed by men unfaithful to their heritage. Elsewhere, little flocks of five and ten families had to reorganize and start anew. Your parents paid the cost of discipleship. They who would be confessionally Reformed must know that the cost is high. Mis-representation, ostracism, and ridicule will be your lot in life. We have been and desire ever to be confessionally Reformed. Young People, being Reformed in 1986, must be your desire without regard to the cost.
We must point out that the Reformed Faith is the truth of Scripture. In 1986 most people by Church affiliation Reformed, would not dare be so bold. It is our position that the Reformed Faith alone is the truth of Scripture. It is not a truth; one among many. But the Reformed Faith is The Truth. Our claim is exclusive.
Most so-called Reformed people today resent the distinctive preaching of the Reformed Faith. The doctrine of the sovereign predestination, that is, both unconditional election and unconditional reprobation are hated doctrines in many “Reformed” congregations. The truth of total depravity of the fallen sinner is openly denied. Even the blessed truth of the infallibility of Scripture is ever under attack in the Reformed community of churches in our day. In 1986 people clamor for broadmindedness and flexibility. They want preaching that is vague and general. Biblical preaching they desire without being thoroughly and specifically Reformed. This cry for broadmindedness in regard to doctrine and our Creeds is justified in the name of brotherliness and love. Let me say frankly that it is a vile love; for it is a love of man at the expense of the love of the truth of God’s Word. The plea for broadmindedness and flexibility is a sell-out of the Reformed faith. In 1986 and in the years to come, you and I must be on our guard and speak out against this evil spirit, which in deference to men would rob God of His great glory and honor.
We should clearly understand what it means to confess the truth. In that regard, how do we explain the possibility of creedal expressions of God’s Word? The answer is that the confession of the Church of Christ is the reflection of the Bible as it lives in the hearts of God’s people. The Word of God is written upon the hearts of God’s people by the Spirit of Christ and is reflected again in the Church’s Creeds. This reflection is the fruit of the testimony of the Holy Spirit in us. The Holy Spirit having sealed the Word of God upon the heart causes the Church to confess the truth of Scripture. The Creeds systematically present the truth of God’s Word. In order to be Reformed in 1986, you will have to lay hold on this understanding of our Creeds.
The Reformed Faith creedally expressed is your heritage. You were not born to pagan parents. Nor were you reared in modernism with its denial of the eternal divinity of Jesus of Nazareth. The errors of humanism did not constitute your training. Nor were you raised by Roman Catholic or Arminian parents. Many thousands and even millions of children are born and reared in spiritual darkness. But God in His sovereign grace and blessed wisdom gave to you and me Reformed parents. All your catechism training has been given by Protestant Reformed ministers of the Word; you were educated in our own schools and reared in the homes of dedicated Reformed people. This is of God’s grace to us in Christ Jesus. Do not be apathetic and unthankful to God in regard to this most singular blessing.
The Reformed Faith is our heritage. It has been handed down to us from generation to generation from the 16th century to today. Reformed believers have always been careful to teach the truth to the generation that followed them. Remember too that this heritage is ours at the ultimate price of the blood of the martyrs. Be mindful of the name Guido De Bres, the author of the Belgic Confession. Because he refused to abandon the truth of God’s Word, his blood was shed.
One of the greatest dangers to our heritage is our forgetfulness. The danger ever exists that we forget the great price paid by our fathers. Let us ever remind one another and be instructed in not only the objective truths of Scripture but also in the price Reformed saints have had to pay in order to hand down this truth to us.
The Reformed Faith is a most glorious truth. It does not always appear that it is to us. In 1986 our preaching upon the mission field is of very meager fruit. Where is the positive fruit on our labors in northwest Chicago, or in Modesto, California, or in Norristown, Pennsylvania? There is very little if any growth. In addition, our churches remain small and unattractive to others. Most of our literature lies moribund on the religious book market. Consequently, we may be inclined to ask, where is the great glory of the Reformed Faith? Where is its power? Has it no charm? Why is it that the Reformed Faith is being abandoned well-nigh everywhere? Further, some may not be content merely to ask the above questions but may be tempted to change or compromise the Reformed Faith, thereby, to make it and our Churches more attractive to others. We desire popularity and growth. Some may even say that the Reformed Faith is going nowhere in 1986!
Let me, however, sound a warning for you and myself. The fruit of the preaching of the truth of Scripture is two-fold. It, on the one hand, exposes the sinner and hardens the impenitent unto the realization of God’s decree of reprobation. On the other hand, the preaching convicts of sin and brings one to repentance and faith in Christ Jesus unto the realization of God’s decree of election. We must submit to whatever God is pleased to accomplish by the preaching of the gospel. It is carnal on our part that we demand the kind of fruit upon the preaching that allows for human pride and boasting. We must remind ourselves that the Church is always victorious but in the way of apparent defeat. Christ Jesus was victorious in death. So it is for His people in the world.
Indeed, the Reformed Faith is glorious. It is beautiful and grand for many reasons. It is glorious, first of all, because it alone is the truth of Scripture. Secondly, the Reformed Faith is most beautiful because it exalts God as God alone. Thirdly, the Reformed Faith is praise worthy for it teaches us that Jesus Christ alone is our righteousness before God. Fourthly, the Reformed Faith is glorious because it instructs us to seek our life “outside of ourselves in Christ Jesus.” The Reformed Faith is glorious and grand exactly because it is the gospel of God.
Our heritage and our desire to be Reformed in 1986 and until our Lord returns upon the clouds of heaven implies a most serious calling. You are the young people. Now is the time of preparation for life. You are now to be prepared to rear the next generation. Your calling, therefore, is to learn the Creeds. Your calling is to study the Reformed Faith in your society meetings. Do not let your society meetings degenerate into a mere social hour.
Moreover, your calling is not only to learn but to love the Reformed Faith. It is not enough merely to learn and know the Reformed Faith. Many who have are in hell. Others will join them there. Your calling is to love the Reformed Faith. Let me call attention to the context of your convention theme text. We read in I Thessalonians 2:10-12 “. . .because they received not the love of the truth. . . .’And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth. …” Note well, it is not our calling merely to know, but to love the Reformed Faith.
This is a most serious calling. There is no room for apathy and indifference to the truth. We have the responsibility to “stand fast and hold the traditions which ye have been taught,” (I Thessalonians 2:15) This is God’s command to His people. Though the love of many shall wax cold toward God and His Truth, let us pray God for grace abounding to stand for the truth of the Reformed Faith.
Let us ever praise and glorify Jehovah’s name for this rich blessing of the truth of Scripture as our rich heritage. Jesus, the Christ, is glorified when His Father’s Word is known and loved. And your salvation is had only in the way of love and obedience to the truth.
As most of our readers know, the young people of the Protestant Reformed Churches from the Grand Rapids area gathered together at Camp Rogers for the spring Retreat. Camp Rogers is located approximately 20 miles northeast of Grand Rapids near Bostwick Lake. If memory serves me correctly, on April 10 and 11 there were about ninety of our covenant young people there for this “Retreat.” The purpose of these Retreats, it is assumed, is to provide Christian fellowship and spiritual edification for our young people. For what other purpose could warrant its existence? These young people were assembled to accomplish that purpose. Their parents expected that every means available would be employed to accomplish this objective. It was their God-given parental right to expect this of us as covenant young people, and the Christ appointed office bearers of our churches expected this of us. And not only they, but God Himself demanded this of us. God, Who has spiritually called us to manifest the life of Christ given us as His regenerated children, demands: “Be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written “Be ye holy: for I am holy.’”
To one degree or another we failed! Miserably! And why did we fail? Because we did not employ every means possible to accomplish our purpose for gathering as covenant people.
Here is what we did. Very properly, we began our Spring Retreat with prayer. One of the young men from the Federation Board led us in prayer, asking for the blessing of God; for His race that we might do everything to His gory and honor…etc. But immediately after we stood before the majestic throne of God earnestly seeking His grace and blessing – three young men, two strumming electric guitars and the other playing an accordion, began to make rock and roll music. First of all they played a song entitled “Wipe Out” followed by the singing of some hillbilly love songs. We all sang some of the following songs: “Five Hundred Miles,” “High Barbaree,” “Puff the Magic Dragon,” “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” and others. All this was employed, I take it, as a means to stimulate Christian fellowship. Or was it a means to our spiritual edification, to our spiritual enrichment? And not only that but it was to receive the blessing of our Holy God and Father in Heaven. And did it proceed from His grace and Spirit? Nonsense! After much rationalizing, I still cannot make myself believe that that rock and roll type music could have been a means to stimulate Christian fellowship, or be a means to our edification. I do not think that God was well pleased with us.
Maybe you sense the incongruity, the spiritual inconsistency of it all. First to pray as covenant young people for the grace and blessing of God, and then to immediately begin singing these songs. And to have done that in the name of, and representing the Protestant Reformed Churches. Really we represented the cause of Christ Jesus our Lord. It certainly is a cause for shame and humility on our part. We didn’t create the proper spiritual atmosphere for the Retreat. We should have begun as we closed the Retreat, with the singing of some hymns and psalter numbers. Then we would have at least attempted properly to create the right atmosphere for the entire Retreat. If we had done something like that the whole Retreat, which had several good aspects, would have had a unifying spiritual character.
I have one other negative criticism to make. Our time was on the whole rather poorly used. If we were to achieve our objectives at the Retreat we had to work at it, and that required time. All day Saturday, except for two-one hour sessions of group discussions, was spent playing volley ball, football or just aimlessly wandering about the camp grounds. I am not condemning the sports activities as such because I recognize the need for something through which the young people can release their boundless energy. But there is no need to spend the greater part of the day at such activities. To make these Retreats a success we will have to utilize our time somewhat better with events a little more closely related to the purpose of having a Retreat.
I have said all I care to say about the Spring Retreat of 1970. But what about the Retreats of the future? Are we going to continue and probably increase the amount of time singing secular songs and listening to guitar music at the Retreat? I hope not. And if you do, you will have destroyed the Retreats. We must strive to provide better outings, i.e., spiritually better outings. What can we do to provide better Retreats?
In the first place, I would suggest that the Federation Board must seek the advice and approval of its advisors and youth coordinator for whatever activities are to take place at the Retreats. This has not always been done in the past. The Federation Board has done much for which it can be commended. But I think it can do a better job if it were compelled to gain the approval of its advisors in all its activities. Secondly, it seems to me that the individual societies have not established good contact with its Federation Board. Each young people’s society should be well informed in advance of what the Federation Board has programmed for these Retreats.
In conclusion, let us not look around for someone to blame for past faults and short comings of previous Retreats; but let us as covenant young people, as societies working with the Federation Board and its advisors, attempt to provide a much better Retreat next time the Lord willing.
Originally Published in:
Vol. 30 No. 5 August September 1970
Have you ever met Harry? He is one of those fellows who is not so very interested in the worship service or various activities of the church. The first thing Harry does after he is ushered to his seat in church is settle down as comfortably as possible. Then he struggles through a tradition prayer. During congregational singing, Harry mumbles along as best he can. The songs of God’s praise don’t stir his heart. When the minister leads the congregation in prayer, Harry sleeps. When Christ speaks to His people through the minister, Harry is restlessly watching his watch or he is far off in some distant land to which only sound sleep can bring him. Harry is the first to complain about the long windedness of the servant of God. Harry wasn’t spiritually fed and strengthened because he never listened for the voice of Christ as He spoke through the minister. Harry says to his friends that he doesn’t get much out of the sermons either. In societies Harry is a quiet fellow – bored to death really. He hasn’t prepared for the society meeting and he doesn’t participate in its discussions. You can’t discuss the things of the church with Harry because Harry doesn’t know much about these things. Harry doesn’t read much either you know. But Harry is a most interesting fellow during the week. He plays softball two or three nights a week. He is the real hot shot on the ball diamond. Harry is a real talkative fellow when it comes to sports, cars, girls, or most anything else, but he is mum concerning the church and the things of God’s kingdom. In the sphere of the church Harry is deaf and dumb.
I pity Harry.
The center of Harry’s life is not the church of Christ. It certainly is a most blessed thing, however, when one can say that he finds his delight and joy among the people of God and in worship with them. There are families and individuals who express by their walk that they find their life’s purpose solely in the church of Christ. You can tell by their walk among us. Many may say that they find their joy in the church, but does their walk confirm their speech or betray them? There are a few elements of church life which we should consider in this connection to determine whether or not the center of our life is the church of Christ.
The spiritual names of the child of God are “thirsty one” and “hungering one.” Such a one comes to church regularly. But he is not there just to fill his customary place in the pew. He is there with a desire to partake of the bread of life and of the water of life- Christ Jesus Himself. He is not there to take a “cat nap,” but to feed his soul. Such a one worships God! During the congregational prayer, he prays. He too brings the needs of the congregation in prayer before the throne of God. When he has the opportunity to praise God with his fellow saints in song, he sings making a joyful noise unto God. Maybe he doesn’t have a good voice, but he sings anyway because he is conscious of the fact that congregational singing is part of the worship service – something which some of us seem to forget. Do you sing in church or just mumble along which is dishonoring to God?
Also the people of God desire and seek the communion and fellowship of one another especially as they are one in public confession. They desire one another’s fellowship because the truth of God’s Word lives in their hearts. They come to young people’s societies so that as individuals and society they may study the Scriptures and enjoy an hour of Christian fellowship. Young people’s societies are not just another social club, but a society which has the study of God’s Word and related matters as its uniting force.
To live along with the church also means that we read the Beacon Lights not only but also the Standard Bearer. If you do not read the Standard Bearer, I would urge you to do so. Of course, it is not the official church paper as some have mistakenly imagined, but it is a source of edification and an opportunity to keep up with developments in other churches. It certainly is sad when the people of God cannot because of ignorance of the facts discuss intelligently developments in our own churches and in the church world in general.
When we find our pleasure elsewhere than in the church of Christ it is an occasion for humility and repentance. All too often, our major concern in life is sports, money, recreation, etc.; but those who live with the church, walk with her in all her manifestations, experience the joy of communion with God and His people.
Originally Published in:
Vol. 30 No. 5 August September 1970
Is it really necessary to study history? When we were youngsters we studied it in the elementary school, then some more history courses in junior high and now a large portion of our time in high school and college is given to the study of history. Why? What good will it do me? Those are the questions I have asked and ones you are probably asking today. You cannot see any sense to it. You probably say: “It is just some boring old stuff that has no bearing upon my life anyway.” One of the answers I received to the question why must I study history was: “It rounds out your personality.” Maybe you have been given that answer. It is not the correct answer and really of precious little help. To be told that the study of history will “round out your personality” cannot truly be a stimulus to be a student of history. If that is the reason or another similar to it, why we must study history, then we might just as well heed the advice of some students with regard to history books: “In case of fire throw this book in first.”
Before we can answer the question: “Why must I study history?” we must know what history is. We must know what is the spiritual principle of history. Is history the record of all past events? Hardly. Is it the record of man’s activities as it relates to his religious, political, economical, social development? Suggested answers of this nature cannot answer the question. “What is history?” Usually Man is considered the subject of history. That is not true, of course, not Man but God is the subject of history. He is working. And history is above all else an account of His activities – not Man’s primarily. History can be defined as the account of the unfolding of God’s counsel, i.e., the revelation of God’s covenant in Christ from the creation to the consummation of all things. History, therefore, primarily deals with the gathering of His church, the body of Christ, from every tongue, tribe and nation. We must see then that all history is Church History! There is no such animal as secular history. History only has significance and value because it is the history of Christ’s church. We must not lose sight of this fact that the study of history is the study of Church History.
As covenant young people that history is our history. In a very real sense we were brought forth out of the womb of all previous history. Our mother is the church of Christ of all the ages. We must view ourselves as Protestant Reformed young people in the light of our history. We have our spiritual conception and development in the past, considered now from a church-historical point of view. Our confession and doctrine are a development of the confession and doctrine of the Church of the past.
Therefore, we must be students of history, in the first place, in order that we may understand the present times. Without a knowledge of the past, we cannot possibly understand the present religious and social unrest. Take an example of our own immediate past. Before one can truly understand the split of ’53 in our own churches, when many desired to preach the lie of conditional salvation, when many craved the flesh pots of Egypt rather than to be numbered among the children of Israel, he must come to grips with the theology of the Liberated Churches and Dr. Schilder. Consider another example: How can one appreciate the Lutheran reformation and its emphasis upon the authority of Scripture, the office of all believers, and justification by faith without having studied the Roman Catholic Church of the medieval period with its emphasis upon the authority of tradition, its denial of the office of believers, and its stress upon the meritorious value of good works. And so it goes: if we are ignorant of the past, the present will always be a mystery to us.
Secondly, we must study history in order to see the development of doctrine. The doctrine of the Church is not born in an ivory tower far away from the strife of life. No, doctrine and the Church’s confession are beaten out on the anvil of spiritual struggle for our very life between the forces of Light and Darkness, between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. We must study history to see how the Church defended her faith, the truth of God’s Word, over against every lie of natural man. The study of history is the study of a spiritual battle. To fight in this battle of faith we must study the triumphant church’s defense of the truth and make that defense our defense of the truth. Without that knowledge we cannot keep rank in the battle lines of Christ’s army.
Thirdly, a study of history is source of great comfort to him who is in Christ Jesus. Christ as Lord of Lords, King of Kings, the exalted of our God, rules sovereignly over the lives of men. The wicked are His Subjects in spite of themselves. Even though they are intent upon the destruction of the Church of Christ and the realization of their kingdom of darkness, Christ accomplishes all the will of God through them. Don’t forget the chaff must serve the wheat, the elder shall serve the younger and that to the glory of our God. Think of the comfort that one receives as he traces the steps of Christ, his Lord, throughout the ages of time. Christ fights for His people. He protects His Bride from all harm. Therefore, be a student of History and be comforted as you grow in appreciation and understanding of the Kingship of the Lamb of God.
Originally Published in:
Vol. 30 No. 2 April 1970
The accusation is frequently made against the Protestant Reformed Churches that we lack love; we do not express any love for one another, but are always at each other’s throats, bickering and disputing over a host of unimportant matters. Many charge that our people are not kind and considerate of those who visit our churches. Indeed, others claim that, because we do not get involved in the problems of the world concerning “man” and “man’s needs,” we thereby prove that we lack love. And it is claimed, because we lack love, therefore, we do not manifest the unity, the fellowship, the communion that believers should experience with one another in Christ Jesus.
The concept love is the crucial standard or criterion on the basis of which we must realize the unity of believers. But many fail or refuse to define the concept love as it would apply to the church. What must I love? Whom must I love? The answers to these questions very definitely form the basis for the unity of believers in Christ Jesus. Christ prayed for the unity, the “oneness,” of all them that had been given unto Him (John 17:21). We have, therefore, an obligation before God to manifest in love the “oneness” for which Christ prayed. We may not make light of this obligation. This is far too often done among us. Each one of us, as individuals and as a denomination, has the grave responsibility to manifest the unity of believers, which is ours in our Lord Jesus Christ. It is true, of course, that we cannot now attain the perfection, the absoluteness, of the unity we have in Christ Jesus. But we must strive for it nonetheless. The basis of that unity is very definitely love; but the question is the love of what?
We must not overlook the fact that the Reformed churches have faced this problem before. They were forced to establish a confessional basis for the unity of believers. Our fathers, therefore, have given us a rich heritage. We must establish and maintain the unity of believers in Christ on the basis of the love of the Confessions of our Reformed fathers. The Confessions set before us in a systematic way who Christ is and what is the meaning of His work. In brief, the Confessions systematize for us the record of the revelation of God in Christ Jesus. We are and must remain a Confessional church. The love of the truth, i.e., the love of the doctrinal truths set forth in the Confessions over against every distortion of the meaning of God’s Word, forms the basis for the unity of believers.
This has several very practical implications for you, the young people of the Protestant Reformed Churches. In the first place you must read and study those Confessions. We must not neglect the fruit of the Spirit of Christ, who has led our fathers into all the truth. We must build upon their confessions; we must maintain their witness over against every error. You want to express your love, i.e., the love of Jesus Christ? Then do not neglect the testimony of His Spirit. Secondly, when you are dating and looking for your life’s partner, you must search in the right places. I dare say you will not find one who loves the truths of the confessions at the “movies”, or at the “race track” or at the “rock festivals.” The enemies of God go there. Look for your life’s partner in the sphere of the church. Thirdly, when we are tempted to leave our churches and to go elsewhere, we must be very cautious. When troubles, bickering and a spirit of bitterness are found among us we are tempted to say: “Boy, I have had my belly full of it…I am leaving.” Or we might want to leave the church because of a certain “sweetheart” who refuses to come to our church. We must ask ourselves, at those times, do these things warrant a separation from the church. Only corruptions or denials of the truths of Scripture or the Confessions can possibly warrant or merit a separation from our churches. Many have found occasions in our churches to express their “lack of love” for the Confessions of our fathers. History has proven this. Remember, it is only on Scriptural and Confessional grounds that we may even entertain the temptation to leave the church. Conversely, it is only on an understanding and love of the Confessions that we can maintain the unity of believers. There is no love manifest where there is a rejection or denial of the Confessions. There is no expression of the unity of believers in Christ where they neglect and disregard the Confessions as irrelevant for out times.
If you make the Reformed Confessions your confession and if you live out of a love for those Confessions, then you will not be so easily “rocked” by all manner of superficial accusations, but will begin to experience the unity believers have in Christ Jesus. We are not, and I hope never become, a church of back-slapping, hand-shaking Philanthropist. The “love of man” has become the basis for the unity of believers in nearly every church round about us. That ought to be obvious to all of us. In conclusion, therefore, don’t “sweat” the accusations of the Humanist; but we must be careful that God does not charge us with—you have lost your first love.
Originally Published in:
Vol. 29 No. 10 February 1970
Rebellion! In a word that is the spirit of our times. Compare for a moment the concept “rebellion” with what is euphemistically called “student unrest” or compare with it what is termed the emancipation of the woman. What is the so-called “underground church” which has as its cornerstone the “uninhibited exercise of worship”, but open rebellion against a church structure enjoined upon us by Scripture? The “underground church” despises and rejects the official means of grace as being an antiquated form of worship. There is something very subtle about the rebellion of today that makes it appear to be justifiable. The student claims he is fighting a corrupt establishment; the woman has been evilly treated and suppressed. The youthful “worshiper” has the same problem as the student; he sees hypocrisy on his right and left.
We live in a day of open rebellion and because of the glorification it receives it has an effect upon us. The urge to rebel rubs off on us!
Because of this I thought it would be beneficial to examine the concept of authority. What is it? Why is it necessary?
Authority can be defined as the “right to rule” or “the right to impose one’s will upon that of another.” He that is endowed with authority has the right to expect that his will is executed by all those under him. A father must demand and expect obedience from his children. The school teacher must demand and expect the same of his students. But if we say no more than this then authority soon becomes tyranny!
Authority, “the right to rule” is of God. He is the source, the fountain of all authority, whether that authority be of the church, the home or the state, it is all of Him. The father, the teacher, the office bearer of the church receives his authority of God through Christ Jesus the risen and exalted Lord. Christ must rule in our homes, Christ must rule in our schools and churches and that because He is Lord over all things to the glory of the Father!
If we use the figure of the human body to represent the spheres of the home, the school and the church, then the proper exercise of authority is analogous to the function of the muscles and ligaments of the body. The muscles and ligaments hold all the members of the body in their proper place and they make it possible for the body to function properly. How could our bodies function without these muscles; how could we go about our daily activities? So it is with the exercise of authority, without which the home crumbles, the school becomes pure chaos and the church becomes a manifestation of the anti-Christian church. Authority is of God and the exercise of which is absolutely necessary for the Church of Christ.
All of us, young and old, those in positions of authority and those governed, must be willing subjects in all things to the rule of Christ in every sphere of life. When our fathers command, we must obey for Christ’s sake; when our teachers make demands upon us, we must comply for Christ’s sake.
But to be more specific let us consider how this concept of authority that is “the right to rule”, receives expression in the exercise of Christian discipline by the church. The “right to rule” over the congregation is given unto the elders by Christ, for He has called them to that office through the church.
The exercise of Christian discipline has basically three objectives or goals. In the first place, the honor of our God must be maintained among us. For God, who has redeemed us from sin and who sanctifies our hearts by His Spirit, requires of us that His name shall be honored and praised among us. If one walks in sin and after repeated admonitions refuses to repent, he must be set outside of the communion of believers in order that God’s name be not dishonored. Secondly, the purpose of Christian discipline is to protect the body of Christ from evil influences. If a sin remains in the church it has a corrupting influence upon the whole church. An impenitent member must be cut off from the communion of believers. Thirdly, the purpose of Christian discipline is that the sinner may see his sin, be ashamed, and confess his sin to the church. By so doing, he removes the offense and the honor of God is maintained.
Only in the way of the love of God, the love of the brethren can this be accomplished among us. Only when the exercise of Christian discipline, when the authority of Christ is brought to bear upon our lives to the honor and glory of God, can we be proper instruments for the gathering of His Church. Christ, therefore, must rule in our lives for he has received a “name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things in earth and under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:10, 11.
Originally Published in:
Vol. 29 No. 8 December 1969
Editor’s note: We wish to welcome Mr. Marvin Kamps as our new associate editor. His first editorial appears in this issue. We wish him the Lord’s blessing in his labor’s among us.
When this article appears or shortly thereafter, your church bulletins will carry an announcement to the effect: “Anyone desirous of making public confession of his or her faith must contact the consistory….” Have you been thinking about it? You should be!
When considering whether or not to make public confession of our faith, we must not allow mere custom and tradition to be the deciding factor. Frequently it seems, we have the idea that if we are not yet in our late teens, it would be presumptuous and bold on our part to make public confession of faith; or if we are nearly twenty or even in our twenties and still have not made public confession of faith, we feel compelled by tradition to do so. These considerations and all other like thoughts we must, of course, ignore. To make public confession of faith is deeply spiritual, therefore, only those thoughts that are of a truly spiritual character may guide us in making our decision.
One may ask the question, isn’t public confession of faith a strictly personal matter between the believer and Christ? And, therefore, not a proper subject to write about or to discuss publicly! We can agree with this only to a point; but remember, we are not discussing our personal confession as such, but rather our public confession witnessed by all God’s people in the local Church. Our public confession, therefore, has some very serious ramifications to which we ought to give prayerful consideration.
What does it mean to make public confession of faith? Usually we give the following answer; firstly, it means that we acknowledge that we are wretched and miserable sinners in ourselves. Secondly, we acknowledge that Christ has died for us, thereby, covering our sins with His blood and imputing His righteousness to us. And, thirdly, since we are in Christ righteous, we lay claim to all the benefits of salvation. Right here we generally stop listing what it means to make public confession of faith in Christ. This is a serious error. Not that we have answered wrongly, but we have not given a complete answer.
We must not forget that that which we are about to make is a public confession of faith. By public confession of faith we become responsible members in a definite communion of believers in a federation of churches. Consequently, we should consider the following aspects of our public confession. Further, it means in the first place, that we covet the fellowship and the unity that believers have in Christ; that we are willing always to suppress our petty personal differences; that we will strive to walk godly in this present world, in order that the unity of the faith which the church expresses may be preserved. Let us not forget that sin always has a disruptive power and destroys the fellowship that believers have in Christ. We must be very conscious of this fact, otherwise, untold misery awaits us as individuals not only, but also as churches. Secondly, public confession of faith means that we will submit to the rule and government of our office bearers, office bearers who have been called to the office by the Church of Christ and even by Christ Himself. We should carefully reflect upon this aspect of our public confession, for we live in a day when open rebellion and disregard for authority is the order of the day. Thirdly, our public confession means that we intelligently and willingly accept the “Confessions” of our churches as the purest and complete doctrinal expression of the teachings of the Scriptures. The Holy Scriptures are the sole rule for our lives and our “Reformed Confessions” are systematic formulations of the teachings or doctrines of Scripture, and therefore, must be honored by us all. This is frequently disregarded by those who make public confession of faith in our churches. Soon after they have made public confession of faith they leave us and join another denomination. Don’t think of these things lightly, for it is in the doctrines or dogmas of our churches that you will find the direction and guidance to walk acceptably before God.
Let not these thoughts frighten you, however, for your strength is from on high through the grace of God. You will find that the way of the believer is extremely difficult, yet it is blessed. Find your delight in this promise; “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.”
Originally Published in:
Vol. 29 No. 6 October 1969
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