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Since evangelism is the special topic of this issue, we are going to spend some time with the term and concept of evangelism. In Ephesians 4:11 we read, “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.” An evangelist was a man who preached the gospel, the good news of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. In the Greek New Testament, the same root word is used for both evangelist and gospel. Philip was an evangelist (Acts 21:8), and Paul exhorted Timothy to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:5). Evangelists would travel the world, preaching the gospel to all who would hear it. They were not called to this work by Christ personally as the apostles were, nor were they sent officially by the church as missionaries or pastors are. God no longer calls men to the special office of evangelist; like the office of apostle, the office of evangelist has passed away.

Unlike the special office of evangelist, evangelism is ongoing. Let us examine evangelism as a concept. Evangelism is the preaching of the gospel, especially to those who are outside the church. Evangelism is preaching the gospel to heathens and self-professing unbelievers. Evangelism includes preaching the gospel to those who profess to be Christians and yet are misinformed, ignorant, indifferent, careless, or apostate with respect to the true gospel of Jesus Christ. Evangelism even includes preaching the gospel in the church! The evangelism activities of Timothy and Philip demonstrate that these groups are the objects of evangelism.

Nowadays God carries out his work of evangelism by calling men to the office of minister and missionary through the instituted church. Just as preaching the gospel is the work of the instituted church, so also evangelism is the work of the instituted church. The authority and calling to preach the gospel was given to the church, not to individuals. Apart from his lawful calling by the church, a minister has no right and no authority to preach the gospel. Much less does any man, woman, or young person have the right or authority to preach the gospel of his own accord. Many congregations appoint an evangelism committee to aid in the church’s evangelism. These committees and their members do not preach the gospel; rather, they work to bring gospel preaching to people who need to hear it. In our media-rich environment, there are countless avenues for committees to carry out their work, yet they have this one goal: to bring people under the preaching of the gospel.

For a proper understanding of the church’s calling to evangelism, we need to understand the antithesis and relate it to the work of evangelism. Antithesis literally means “against a position.” It indicates the reality and presence of two opposing positions. Genesis 3:15 is the foremost verse that tells us about the antithesis, even though that word is not used. God tells us that there will be hatred and conflict between Jesus and Satan, the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, throughout all of history. The antithesis has its source in God’s decree of election and reprobation. The antithesis is seen at Jesus’ crucifixion as the historical fulfillment of the promise in Genesis 3:15. The antithesis is seen in God’s saving one criminal while the other perished in hell for his sin. God maintains the antithesis throughout history by the work of the Holy Spirit; the Spirit’s work of regenerating the elect makes the difference. The difference is life and death in the spiritual sense. The antithesis indicates a spiritual division and separation, not physical, even though this spiritual division often becomes visible.

The spiritual nature of the antithesis has a profound impact on the work of evangelism. If we took the antithesis to mean a physical separation from the world, individual members of the church could no longer have a witness by our words or by our lives! And, although personal witnessing is not evangelism, our witnessing supports the evangelism of the church. Our lives will demonstrate the doctrines we believe. Our lives will be marked by a Spirit-worked holiness, not worldliness. Since we confess that the antithesis is spiritual, we live in the world. We do not attempt to cut ourselves off from the world as the Amish do. We talk with our neighbors, whether that is at work or at school or in our own neighborhoods. I may not treat others as if I am better than them, shun co-workers, or remain unfriendly toward my neighbors.

The antithesis is the difference between the truth and the lie. The church is called to preach the true gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ alone, through faith alone. Any imposition of man’s willing or doing upon the gospel message is a corruption of the true gospel. If the preaching makes faith to be a work of man rather than the gift of God, the gospel is corrupted. The gospel is such good news because it teaches that faith is the gift of God! All natural men are depraved sinners and unable to desire salvation in Christ, let alone believe in him. The true gospel teaches this over against all other false teachings, such as Arminianism and the conditional covenant.

The right understanding of the antithesis also directs the church’s mindset in evangelism. Individuals do not save souls, and churches do not save souls. Rather, God saves his people. God maintains the antithesis by the Holy Spirit’s work of regeneration. While true gospel preaching exposes and hardens the unregenerate, the Spirit works faith in the regenerate through the preaching of the gospel. The Spirit powerfully draws the elect to God. The church does not know who are elect and who are not; therefore, in obedience to God’s command, the church preaches the gospel to all men. This obedience is a gift from God; this work is a privilege. God sends out and withholds the gospel where he is pleased. Salvation depends on God’s work, not ours.

What encouragement for the church! Without the God-established antithesis the church would be afraid to do evangelism, fearing that souls would be won or lost by our presentation of the gospel. We are not tempted to change the gospel in order to make it more acceptable in the world. Instead, we rest in God, knowing that he will use the simple means of true gospel preaching to gather his people. Out of thankfulness for our own salvation, let us pray for the church’s work of evangelism, and witness with our words and lives wherever God gives us opportunity.

 

Originally published July 2020, Vol 79 No 7

Perhaps you have seen a billboard along the highway that reads, “Drive sober or get pulled over.” Maybe you have heard or read of some cultural icon who has been “sober” for x number of months or years. No doubt we have also read the commands in the Bible to be sober (read Titus 1–2). The word “sober” might be a familiar word in our ears, but what do we understand by it? Is sobriety simply staying below the legal limit if you plan to get behind the wheel? Must sobriety be achieved by abstaining from drugs and alcohol altogether? How should we view the mind-altering and behavior-influencing prescription drugs that many doctors prescribe? I may not provide you with a list of dos and don’ts regarding God’s command to be sober. That would be man’s word. God’s word to his people is not an instructional book or a “user’s manual” for life, and we may not treat it as such. We have been given new hearts! Our experience is that we are thankful for salvation; therefore, let us go to God’s word together to see what it means that he calls us to be sober.

The apostle Paul, in his inspired letter to Titus, exhorts that believers be taught to live sober lives. The basic meaning of “sober” in Titus 2:2 is the opposite of being drunk with wine. “Sober” in verse 2 is paralleled in verse 3: “likewise…not given to much wine.” God calls the aged men and the aged women to sobriety in contrast to drunkenness. The idea of sobriety in verse 2 has a special emphasis on a person’s self-control of his body, mind, and emotions. Alcohol and many other substances, both legal and illegal, impair one’s ability to think and act. They impair one’s ability to think and act spiritually. Generally, the world laughs at the stupor of drunkenness. The world only frowns at drunkenness when it is shown to be the cause of some disorderly conduct. The concept of sobriety in the Bible is much different than that of the world: all drunkenness is sin, a transgression of God’s plain command. Even so, keeping oneself from drugs or alcohol does not equal sobriety.

In Titus 2:4, 6, Paul instructs Titus to teach the young women to be sober and the young men to be sober-minded. We see here that the entire church is called to sobriety, both old and young, men and women. None are excepted. In these verses, to be sober or sober-minded is to think clearly and rightly and to exercise self-control. The things of this earth fight to influence the Christian’s thinking; I have in mind here the devil, the world, and our own flesh. We must never underestimate their power and appeal. These things can be people, ideas, possessions, activities, and so on. Even good things in these categories can influence our minds in an evil way, so that we become drunk with them. When we become so influenced by these things, we give up control of our thoughts, actions, and emotions.

Look with me at two examples of this. Say that I find a certain genre of the world’s music to be appealing. I turn on the radio or begin to stream a station. I listen to a song, and I like the sound. The lyrics are catchy, so I begin to sing along. Soon I’m singing all the songs. I am singing all the words and ideas, even taking the Lord’s name in vain and cursing (or praising fornication, drunkenness, and murder). No longer sober-minded, I have become drunk with the music of the world, and I no longer control my own actions. Another example: I might like an officebearer of my church. Suppose that he is influential, well-spoken, and generous. Besides being an officebearer, he is my friend. Soon, a controversy arises in the church. It is a serious doctrinal controversy. My first reaction is, “What does my officebearer friend say about this?” I adopt his position; he could not possibly be wrong; after all, he is an officebearer and my friend. No longer sober-minded, I have become drunk on my relationship with this man. Respecting persons, I can no longer think clearly and rightly about the matter of doctrine before me.

Sober-mindedness is one of the callings which “become sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). Sound doctrine cannot last long in a home or church where there is no or very little sober-mindedness. This is because false doctrine is an especially deceitful tool of Satan. False doctrine uses all the right words, good Reformed words. False doctrine appears, on the surface, to be supported by many verses of the Bible. Only the Christian’s very prayerful, diligent, and careful study of these deceptive teachings will reveal them as such. Those who are inebriated with the things of this world will be unable to identify and reject false doctrine. Pleasure-seeking is a distraction from the study of sound doctrine.

As we saw earlier, all Christians, young and old, men and women, are called to sobriety for the sake of sound doctrine. To the aged: you may not call for peace when there is false doctrine present and uncondemned, expecting that the next generation will root it out. That is to be drunk with a worldly ideal of peace and unity. To the young people: you must study to know sound doctrine from false. You may not leave it to the “old” and “wise” men of the church to judge these things for you as you pursue worldly fun. Sobriety is every Christian’s calling.

Sober-mindedness certainly does not exclude having fun or enjoying God’s good gifts. We have been given the greatest gift: salvation in Jesus Christ! This salvation is the only possibility for us truly to enjoy the good gifts that God gives. We ought to have fun, especially the fun of fellowship with the saints and enjoyment of God’s creation. Let us live with joy, delighting in our God! At the same time, heed this warning: do not become intoxicated with fun. Do not allow a carnal desire for a pleasant, peaceful life to displace your sobriety. Instead, pray that God fill you and me more and more with the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ. May Jesus Christ so influence us by his word and Spirit that we become more and more sober-minded!

 

Originally published February 2021, Vol 80 No 2

Question: In the Protestant Reformed community there are three institutions that dominate our lives: the church, the home, and the school. From a Reformed perspective, how do they relate to each other?

 

As Protestant Reformed believers, there are three institutions that dominate our lives: church, home, and school.  These institutions do not rule us with an iron rod, as some in the world around us might suppose; rather, what is meant is that our lives are led and directed within these institutions.  The institutions of the Protestant Reformed church, home, and school are blessings from God; they have been chosen by God as a picture of certain spiritual truths of Gods’ covenant with us, his elect children.  Additionally, these institutions comprise the sphere of the covenant, within which God sees fit to nurture his elect children.  The doctrine of the covenant, as it is manifested in these three institutions, is made tangible and experiential to the Reformed believer.  God’s covenant is made manifest, through his grace and the Spirit, by our participation in and support of these institutions.

            The first subject we will look at is the question of what an institution actually is.  A close-fitting definition from Noah Webster’s First Edition of the American Dictionary of the English Language is this: “A system, plan or society established, either by law or by the authority of individuals for promoting any object, public or social.”[1]  This definition, although not a perfect explanation, assists us in understanding what an institution is.  In this definition, three important concepts are mentioned: the act of establishing, the authority required to establish, and the objective or purpose in establishing.  In the first section, we will look into the act of establishing as well the authority required; in the subsequent section we will examine the purpose.

God’s Institutions

The institutions we are considering (the church, home, and school) are all established by God.  By virtue of being the creator, God himself has the authority to institute.   God’s purpose in creating the earth was that he might show forth his glory in the salvation of his elect through the work of Christ.  Ephesians 1:4–5 speaks directly to this truth: we were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world.  This precise number of the elect is the church proper.  By his promise of the Redeemer to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:15, God established the church, the earthly manifestation of those whom he had determined to save.  The church is an institution that belongs to the sphere of redemption.  In the Old Testament, the church was made manifest in the line of promise: from Adam to Abraham and then to the nation of Israel.  This earthly manifestation of the church is the church institute.  In the New Testament, the church institute is no longer identified with the children of Abraham; the church institute is now the local congregation, “an assembly of those who are saved” as The Confession of Faith defines it.[2]  John Calvin refers to the church institute as God’s “own institution”, and indeed, it is.[3]

After God had created, he instituted marriage by his act of bringing Eve to Adam; with marriage he instituted the home, as recorded in Genesis 2:18–24.  Marriage is an institution that belongs to the sphere of creation.  Genesis 2:24 is particularly clear about the construction of the home: Adam says, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”  The construction of marriage between a man and a woman is clearly seen here, with the implication being that children are to be born into and raised within homes with both a father and a mother.  One of the primary reasons for the breakdown of the biblical model of marriage in society is found in the widespread rejection of God’s literal six-day creation.  If the world evolved, then God has no authority to institute marriage and the home; consequently, the evolving creatures would then have the authority to institute whichever type of family structure fits their purposes.  This is certainly not the case!

As we observe the relationship between home and school, it is impossible to establish a division between God’s act of instituting the home from that of the school.  For this reason and in our current context, it is correct to speak in terms of two institutions, namely, the church and the home.  Genesis 2:24 tells us that children are to be raised by a father and mother in the home until the time of maturity.  In order for a child to arrive at maturity, it is imperative that he or she be educated.  Ephesians 6:4 commands fathers to “…bring them [their children] up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”  This is what sets the good Christian schools apart from those of the world.  The worldly schools are institutions of men and have a secular purpose at their core.  Protestant Reformed parents make a vow at the baptism of their children “to see these children…instructed and brought up in the aforesaid doctrine, or help or cause them to be instructed therein, to the utmost of your power.”[4]  God’s word commands that the children of believing parents receive a Christian education, and our baptismal vows reflect that.

God’s Eternal Purpose

            To establish more firmly in our minds the relationship between God’s institutions of church, home, and school, we must proceed to an examination of his purpose for them.  The chief reason for which God instituted the church and home, with the school by implication, is to glorify himself.  Specifically, as we have already seen earlier in God’s purpose for creating, God determined in eternity to glorify himself in the redemption of his elect in Christ.  God establishes his covenant with his people, and he reveals himself to them as the covenant God.  Psalm 25:14 states that “The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him; and he will show them his covenant.”  The church, home, and school are means that God uses to nurture those with whom he has established his covenant, and there are specific ways in which each of these institutions manifests God’s covenant relationship with believers.

God’s work for the church institute is the preaching of the word, the administration of the sacraments, and the application of church discipline.  God gathers his people by the preaching of the word, teaching them about himself.  He encourages them by their partaking of the sacraments.  God also corrects those whom he loves by disciplining them.  Through both discipline and teaching, God defends his people from error in lifestyle and doctrine.  The children of God are united together as one in a common confession of the truth.  The church is the body, united in the Spirit, under Christ her head.  The Apostle Paul writes of this in 1 Corinthians 12:27, where he writes: “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.”  The context makes the meaning of this verse especially clear: there are many members, but only one body.

In the home, the husband and wife are to represent the relationship of Christ with the church.  Ephesians 5:23 reads: “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the Savior of the body.”  Marriage is a wonderful picture of the covenant fellowship that the church has with Christ; the husband and wife become one as Christ and the church are one.  Marriage is one aspect of the family that is a reflection of the covenant, but the parent-child relationship is another that is well worth examining in this respect.  Ephesians 1:5 says that God “…predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will”.  Even as children have earthly fathers who (ought to!) care for them, we have a heavenly Father who has redeemed us in Christ.

As pointed out earlier, in the institution of marriage and the home, God requires that parents train their children in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph 6:4).  This is particularly the responsibility of fathers as the heads of their homes.  As surely as God is our heavenly Father and makes himself known unto us, earthly fathers are to educate their children in the truth which God has revealed in His word.  However, as the church is one, children are born not simply to covenant parents as individuals, but children are born into the church, within the sphere of the covenant.  For this reason, education is not simply the responsibility of individual covenant fathers, but it is the responsibility of the covenant community.  Upon this basis Protestant Reformed parents must tirelessly strive to establish and maintain the good Christian day schools, with the avowed intent of training covenant children in the fear and admonition of the Lord.  God has determined to establish his covenant with the seed of believers in the way of covenant education.

Conclusion and Implications

            God is the author of the instituted church and of the home with the school.  These are his institutions, established by the authority that he alone possesses as the creating and redeeming God.  They serve his eternal purpose, the establishment of his covenant with the elect.  It is true that these institutions operate in different ways and in different spheres within the life of the believer, but nonetheless, God’s eternal purpose for them is the same: to establish the covenant with believers and their seed.  This common purpose that God has for the church and home entails solemn obligations and responsibilities for believers.

Believers are to gather together in the church institute, manifesting their unity as the body of Christ.  This unity must always be unity in the truth, as God has revealed it to us; in our Protestant Reformed Churches we are blessed to have this truth officially proclaimed to us from week to week.  This preaching of the word includes Heidelberg Catechism instruction for the youth as well.   May we never tire of this preaching nor neglect the gathering of ourselves together.  In our churches, we are also encouraged by participating in the sacraments of baptism and the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.  Finally, there is the admonition and discipline of the elders for our correction.  We are to give thanks to God always for these blessings that the church alone has been given authority to administer.

God has made it clear in his word, that he works in the line of continued generations; passages such as Acts 2:39 and 1 Timothy 1:5 make this explicit.  There is a great benefit to the children of believers in that they are raised within the sphere of the covenant, witnessing the godly marriages of their parents and being led by their godly example.  This is not the exclusive way in which God works, but it is the ordinary.  As children or young people being raised (or having been raised) in Godly homes, we must give thanks to God for this blessing!  To subvert the authority which God has entrusted to parents is to despise the authority of God.  Rebellion against one’s parents is rebellion against God.

The school is an extension of the home; therefore, the same thanks we must give for Godly homes must be given to God for the good Christian schools.  The authority that God has entrusted to covenant parents is present not only in the home, but in the school as well.  Rebellion in the school is rebellion against God.  Parents who slander or discredit the authority in the school subvert not only their own authority, but also the authority of other covenant parents, which is God’s authority.  Whether a parent, student, or simply a member of the covenant community, let us think about this before we open our mouths to criticize harshly those who diligently labor in our good Christian schools.

In summary, the church and the home with the school are God’s institutions.  They are established by God’s work and under his authority.  The believer spends his or her regenerated life participating in and supporting these institutions.  These institutions comprise the sphere of the covenant; they must not be viewed as a bane and burden or worse yet, as a curse!  These are God’s means for raising up and preserving the Church.  Let us give thanks to him!

[1] Noah Webster, American Dictionary of the English Language (Facsimile of 1928 ed.), (San Francisco: Foundation of American Christian Education, 1967), s.v. “institution” 3.

[2] Confession of Faith, Article 28, quoted in The Psalter (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Printing Company, 2002), 48

[3] Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), 4.1.5, 2.1017

[4] “Form for the Baptism of Infants”, quoted in The Psalter (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Printing Company, 2002), 88

It doesn’t take much of a glance around us to see the wickedness that abounds. Murder, rape, and stealing are just a few examples that even those of the unbelieving world are appalled at. There are also sins of fornication and adultery, murder of the unborn, desecration of the Lord’s Day, and blasphemy, to name just a few that are innumerable in the world. The world sees nothing wrong with these sins, and many churchgoers and religionists also willfully commit them. There are many ways in which the world seeks to justify these sins, as well. The churches of our day appear to be blending in with the world more and more, but this is not the word of God to us as his children.

We are surrounded by this wickedness in our neighborhoods, workplaces, grocery stores, everywhere it seems. We do not have the option that Lot had. In Genesis 13 we learn that Abram and Lot had to separate because of strife between their servants, but he did not have to put himself in the middle of the wickedness of Sodom. We as Christians are placed here in the middle of the filth and wickedness of this world. We certainly are not in this world by accident or fate. We have been placed here by the eternal, determinate counsel of God. The Confession of Faith, Article 13 says, “We believe that the same God, after he had created all things, did not forsake them, or give them up to fortune or chance, but that he governs them according to his holy will…” We, as Christians, must not seek to remove ourselves from the world as many sects have done, and still do today. In John 17:18 Christ prays “As Thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them.” How are we sent, and what are we, as individuals, to do?

We, as 21st century Christians, cannot choose a physical land of Canaan to separate ourselves from the influences and temptations of the world; rather, God has instituted the church to which God’s children must join themselves. In I Corinthians 12, the apostle Paul teaches us that we are one body, and that each individual member is necessary for the body. We must not leave the body of believers as Lot and Abram separated (Genesis 13:11). Lot chose for himself the fertile plains, and in doing so made a conscious decision to place himself in the middle of the wickedness of Sodom. As Lot separated from Abram, he moved away from godly company. The direction Lot took teaches us why there was strife. It was because of greed on his part. It was sinful for Lot to separate from Abram, and there were serious consequences for Lot. Our attitude toward the church must be one of personal need, and we must be willing to sacrifice for it. The Confession of Faith, Article 28 says,

We believe, since this holy congregation is an assembly of those who are saved, and that out of it there is no salvation, that no person, of whatsoever state or condition he may be, ought to withdraw himself to live in a separate state from it; but that all men are in duty bound to join and unite themselves with it, maintaining the unity of the church; submitting themselves to the doctrine and discipline thereof; bowing their necks under the yoke of Jesus Christ; and as mutual members of the same body, serving to the edification of the brethren, according to the talents God has given them.

This article goes on to speak of the consequences of separating from the church and the sacrifices that may be required for joining it. This article is not speaking merely of church membership, but of attendance, and participation as well. We will not know wickedness, unless we know the commands of scripture. Attendance to the preaching of the word is vitally important for holy living. Reverend Hoeksema in his Reformed Dogmatics, states, in light of Romans 10:14, 15, “Through the preaching, therefore, you do not hear about Christ, but you hear him” (Dogmatics, 637). At this point, each one of us needs to critically inspect our own lives in light of scripture. Do we confess with David in Psalm 26:8 “Lord, I have loved the habitation of thy house, and the place where thine honour dwelleth.” Do we diligently frequent the house of prayer? We must find a college, and then later in life, an occupation that does not take us away from the pure preaching of the Word. Our vacations need to be planned around worship with the body of Christ. We should be so repulsed by the wickedness of the world (and much of what calls itself the church), that we are driven to God’s house! If we take ourselves away from the preaching, we take ourselves away from Christ! Sometimes, even under the preaching of the Word, God’s people so grievously fall into sin that we need to hear a word of rebuke from fellow members. Even then, we may stubbornly persist in that sin so that we need the admonition and discipline of the church by the elders. We must not expect our fellow members or our elders to be responsible for our souls (as they truly are), if we choose to separate ourselves from the body of Christ. In that situation, they have no means to shepherd our souls. We must not look at this as some sort of restriction, but a blessed privilege. So we must seek the pure preaching of the word. But, all the knowledge of God’s Word that can be attained through hearing it preached is worth nothing unless it is ours personally and we live in light of it.

Ezekiel 16:49 tells us of Sodom’s iniquity. We read “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.” Pride is the epitome of all sin. Pride exalts itself against laws and lawgivers. The Sodomites had much time that was spent for selfish indulgence. They withheld from the poor and were a very materialistic society. The situation in Sodom was a lot like that of our own society. It seems as though, in our day, the only reason anything is given to the poor is for self gratification and glorification. Sexual perversions and abominations abound. There is much laziness. Although we can look at a lot of sins ‘out there’, we must focus on our own lives. Much of our time is wasted on some kind of irrelevant entertainment. This is our form of ‘abundance of idleness’. It is easy to say that the movie theatre is a den of iniquity, but many of us take that into our own ‘family’ rooms in the form of a television. And even if we are careful about what we turn on, the godless filth and perversion of the commercials is enough to make one shudder. When we gather together as friends and families we must not spend our time drinking excessive amounts of alcohol and chattering mindlessly. Vexed with wickedness? No, we are numbed to it. We even entertain ourselves with it. This is how we pitch our spiritual tents toward Sodom. We are told in II Peter 2:7 that Lot was vexed with the filthy conversation of Sodom. He sat in the gate and saw their deeds. He did not participate in the unlawful works of Sodom, and we must not take part in the unlawful deeds of our society either. We must diligently walk in godliness, keeping ourselves from pride, and preferring others before ourselves.

Lot endangered his own life by receiving the two angels into his home and refusing to allow the men of Sodom to carry out their plan. He was willing to give of himself for their safety. Giving of ourselves until it hurts is true giving. We have that example from the widow in Mark 12:41-44, who cast in the two mites even though she was poor. The church of Christ today is filled with altogether too much materialism, and the desire for entertainment. We must truly strive to occupy our time with edifying activities rather than entertainment, and here are a few examples. We must be given to Christian hospitality, as Lot was. Family worship, singing included, is a necessary part of our spiritual growth. We must make it a priority to prepare for and attend our societies. Daily, personal Bible study and prayer are imperative. We must live faithfully in our households with love for one another. Let the children observe the godly examples of their parents and older siblings, rather than learning from the television. Read good books and periodicals. Space fails me to go on, but the heart of the matter is that every aspect of our lives must be dictated by the Word of God. Our lives must be visibly different than those of the world around us. Then we will have the courage to speak with those around us.

Lot did speak with those around him in the city of Sodom. He had a place among the elders of the city in the gate. When he rebuked them for their wicked desires, their reply is recorded in Genesis 19:9. “And they said, Stand back. And they said again, this one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge: now will we deal worse with thee, than with them. And they pressed sore upon the man, even Lot, and came near to break the door.” Lot’s stinging word of sharp rebuke infuriated the men of Sodom. We may not stand by silently and watch wickedness carry on, either. That is approval by silence. Rather, scripture commands us to ‘judge righteous judgments’ (John 7:24). We must say with Peter and John after they were threatened in Acts 4:17-21, “For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard”. We must take special note, for we cannot speak about ourselves. Rather we speak that which we have seen and heard, namely, Christ. We have seen! We have heard! Not objectively, but personally. Christ was crucified, he died, he arose from the dead, and he is ascended. He is our hope! But, speaking this will cause us to be rejected. This is to be expected. I John 3:13 tells us, “Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.” If we live our lives in godliness, we will not be accepted. Our lives will be difficult, especially in the last days, but we do not rely on ourselves for wisdom, faith, or spiritual strength.

We are set apart from the world by God’s sovereign grace. God has made us different from the world, and he maintains that difference. It is impossible that we, if we are regenerated by the work of the Holy Spirit, would not practice the things God has commanded in his Word. Salvation begins with God’s grace, given to the elect and only to the elect, for Christ’s sake. The Holy Spirit applies salvation to us, and also conforms our desires to God’s word. Because good works are a privilege of salvation, they cannot earn anything towards our salvation. God is sovereign over our salvation. But, God is also sovereign over the wicked. Most of Lot’s family was destroyed because of their love of Sodom. Only Lot and two of his daughters were left. His house was destroyed, and he lost many possessions. Lot’s two daughters sinned wickedly as well, and by their father, produced reprobate children, Moab and Ammon. These were all consequences of Lot’s sinful decision to move toward Sodom. God decreed the sin of this righteous man, as well, to bring glory to his name. Ruth the Moabitess is the great grandmother of David, and Christ was born from the line of David. According to God’s counsel, this had to happen so that Christ could be born! God, the decreeing cause of sin, works all things to the salvation of his elect. Our sins are not excused, but, rather, they are paid for in Christ. Christ says in John 10:27, 28, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand.” God is truly praised when we live in this world as strangers and pilgrims, vexed with the wickedness that we live in the midst of. Let us pitch our tents with the true church of Christ.

Works Cited

Hoeksema, Herman. Reformed Dogmatics. Grand Rapids, MI: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 1966

Quotations from the Confession of Faith, or Belgic Confession, can be found in The Three Forms of Unity and the Ecumenical Creeds Grandville, MI: Protestant Reformed Churches in America, reprinted 2002.

Quotations from the Bible are taken from the King James Version.

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