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Missions in the Philippines: Interview with Rev. Daniel Kleyn, a Missionary of the PRCA in the Philippines

 

BEACON LIGHTS: Where is the Philippines?

REV. KLEYN: The Philippines is located in Southeast Asia, approximately 8,000 miles from central USA. It usually takes a good 25 hours or more to travel from the USA to Manila. We missionaries live in the greater metro-Manila area, which has a population of approximately 22 million people. We live just 15 degrees north of the equator; thus our hot and humid climate year round.

 

BL: Please tell us how the work in the Philippines got started.

DK: Our contact with saints in the Philippines began already in 1995. At that time, the Evangelism Committee of Peace Protestant Reformed Church received some correspondence from the Philippines, which included requests for audio sermons and Reformed literature. However, Peace’s Evangelism Committee soon realized they needed to hand over this work to the Foreign Mission Committee. The FMC, from 1997 to 2001, sent seven delegations to investigate the field and to develop our contacts there. This all led to Synod 2001 of the PRCA declaring the Philippines a mission field, with Doon PRC as the calling church. Doon PRC then began the process of calling a missionary. Rev. Aud Spriensma was our first missionary in the Philippines and served there from 2002 to 2007. From 2009 onwards, we have had either two or three missionaries on the field. The three missionaries currently serving in the Philippines are Rev. D. Holstege, Rev. R. Smit, and me.

 

BL: What is the scope of the work today?

DK: Over the years, the work has progressed through various stages. Initially we worked especially with a Bible study fellowship. This led to the organization of a Reformed church, the Berean PRC. Then, after we had worked for some years also in a second church (the PRC in Bulacan), the two churches formed a denomination (the PRCP—Protestant Reformed Churches in the Philippines). Later, another church was added, the Maranatha PRC. More recently, a fourth church was accepted into the denomination, namely, Provident PRC. The PRCP has also established sister-church relationships with the PRCA and with the CERCS (Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church in Singapore). As missionaries, we have assisted and guided the PRCP in all of the above. Currently we are also helping them with their own seminary. This has become a major part of our work, with all three of us providing the instruction. We currently have one student in his first year, and there is a possibility that a few others will begin seminary training in the next school year (August 2020). These are exciting developments, and we are very thankful to the Lord for his blessing on the churches and the work.

 

BL: What prepared you to work as a missionary? Did you always know you wanted to be a missionary?

DK: While studying for the ministry, and even during my first few years in the ministry, my desire was simply to be a pastor in one of our churches. But the Lord gradually planted seeds in my mind and led me to consider the possibility of being a missionary. One concrete way was by having me face a number of calls to serve as a missionary. Another significant factor was that I served as a member of the FMC from 1998–2005 and had the opportunity, during those years, to serve on four of the seven delegations that were sent to the Philippines. But what especially served as good preparation for mission work, in addition to what I was taught about missions in seminary, was that I was able to serve as a pastor in two of our Protestant Reformed churches (Edgerton and Holland) for a total of 11 years. As I look back, those years of experience in the ministry were invaluable as preparation for mission work, a work which involves teaching others to understand what it means to be truly Reformed in doctrine, in worship, in church government, and in life, and a work which involves leading them to put all this into practice in their churches and in their lives.

 

BL: We encourage young men to consider the gospel ministry. What would you say to the young men reading this article as they consider becoming a minister?

DK: First of all, I’m very thankful to hear of young men who are considering the ministry. That’s always encouraging to hear. Secondly, I would impress upon them the fact that ministers (and missionaries) are urgently needed in our churches. And thirdly, I would let them know that the work of a minister (and missionary) is, through God’s blessing, a most honorable calling and a most blessed work. May God provide our churches with the men we need.

 

BL: Looking back, what (if anything) would you do differently?

DK: One thing that comes to mind is the benefit of learning Tagalog first—that is, dedicating a year or more to studying and learning this language so that one knows it well before he actually takes up the work of missions among Filipinos. In the providence of God, we were not able to devote ourselves full-time to learning Tagalog when we moved to the Philippines, since the field had been vacant for some two years and it was necessary for us to focus mainly on the mission work. We were, however, able to study Tagalog part-time, and that was certainly helpful for the work. But I believe it would be more beneficial, if it is possible, for a missionary to devote more time from the start to learning the language and thus also the culture of those among whom he will work.

 

BL: What one thing should the young people of the PRC know about the saints in the Philippines?

DK: The saints in the Philippines, though from a different country and nationality, and though living many miles away, are indeed your fellow believers in Christ. They know that, and they greatly appreciate it. What especially encourages them is to know that they are not the only Reformed young people in the world but have fellow saints in other lands who confess the same truth, face the same temptations and struggles, and experience the same wonders of the grace of God.

 

BL: How can the young people of the PRC assist their brothers and sisters in this far-away land?

DK: Your brothers and sisters in the Philippines need the prayers of their fellow saints for them. I hope, therefore, that this article, and even this special issue of the Beacon Lights, serves to give you a better knowledge and understanding of your fellow believers in the Philippines so that you will be able to pray for them with understanding. As you read through this issue of the Beacon Lights, perhaps you could write a list of things to keep in mind in your prayers for your fellow saints in the Philippines.

 

BL: What struggles do you face as a missionary?

DK: At times, because we live far from our families, the missionary life involves a measure of loneliness. One especially feels the distance when family members have struggles and needs. Another challenge is the ongoing adjustment to life, communication, and many other things in a foreign country and culture, as we strive to be all things to all men (1 Cor. 9:19–23).

 

BL: What unique blessings do you experience in your work?

DK: One of the most enjoyable aspects of doing mission work is to observe, and even to be caught up in, the excitement that the saints in the Philippines have as they learn and embrace the Reformed faith. It is a great blessing to see the joy and comfort that God gives them, by the work of his Spirit, through his word and by means of his truth. And it is also rewarding to see the Spirit leading them to apply the word to their lives. “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 1:4). Another privilege is the opportunity to experience firsthand the reality of the catholicity of the church of Christ.

 

BL: What two books should every child of God have and read?

DK: Allow me to answer this question from the perspective of our Filipino brothers and sisters. As you know, we are able to sell Protestant Reformed literature in the Philippines. In the many years in which we have been selling books, the two most popular ones have been and continue to be Doctrine according to Godliness by Rev. R. Hanko and Saved by Grace by Prof. R. Cammenga and Rev. R. Hanko. I believe most of the church members and our contacts in the Philippines would place these two books at the top of the list.

 

BL: What is your greatest disappointment? Your greatest joy?

DK: One disappointment that stands out in the work is when some with whom we have labored for a time do not embrace all the truth, reject some of it, and depart from us. This has happened a number of times with regard to the truth of double predestination (they agreed with election, but not with reprobation). It has also occurred when we have taught the truth of the covenant and, in that connection, the baptism of the infant children of believers. My greatest joy, as I mentioned earlier, is to observe that God’s people love, embrace, are comforted by, and strive to live according to his truth. Their zeal for and love of the truth is often contagious.

 

BL: Is there anything you wish people back home would know about your work or the field?

DK: Two things come to mind. The first is my personal appreciation that the Lord has provided and that the churches faithfully support three men for this work, and for the fact that we can labor well together and assist each other in all aspects of the work. My wife and I also enjoy and greatly appreciate the companionship we have with the other missionaries. They and their children are like family to us. Secondly, I would mention how much we appreciate the interest in and support of our churches for the mission work and for the churches in the Philippines. We know that you remember us all in your prayers. It is an encouragement to experience the communion of saints in this way.

 

BL: Any final thoughts or reflections?

DK: Yes. We do well to conclude by mentioning our appreciation for the churches and saints in the Philippines. We love God’s people here, and they show in countless ways their love for us. The second stanza of Psalter #27 comes to mind: “I love Thy saints, who fear Thy Name And walk as in Thy sight; They are the excellent of earth, In them is my delight.” We are most grateful for their interest in and zeal for the truth, and for their desire and willingness to have us live and labor among them. The Lord has given us a blessed work to do. We count it a privilege. We ask that you continue to remember us all in your prayers. And may God be praised for the work he has done and continues to do.

 

Originally published May 2020, Vol 79 No 5

The two previous speeches (articles) reminded us of our calling to witness boldly by what we say to others as well as by how we live.  Those speeches focused on the message, and on the messenger.  We now direct our attention to one other factor in witnessing: the person to whom we witness.  That person is anyone whom God in his providence places in our paths.  While it is true that the most important thing in our witness to that person is the message (what we say by word or by life), the method is also significant – especially with a view to being effective in our witness.  As we witness, we need to take into account the hearer, the listener, the person who is the object of our witnessing.  Not everyone to whom we witness is the same.  We need therefore to be all things to all men (1 Cor. 9:22).

To be all things to all men basically means that we seek to understand the person to whom we witness.  We take the time to understand such things as his/her life, culture, circumstances, background, and religious beliefs.  Taking such things into account, we then (as much as is possible and legitimate) adapt ourselves and adapt what we say to that person.  We do this in order to avoid unnecessary offense and thus hopefully to increase that individual’s receptivity to our witness.

For myself as a missionary in the Philippines, this includes the following.  The most obvious is language – we work at learning and we strive to use the local language, Tagalog.  But we also adapt ourselves to such things as their food (e.g., eating tripe or balut), their ways of communication (e.g., express appreciation for a dish, not verbally, but more indirectly by taking seconds), their view of time (e.g., a willingness to adapt to a “rubber clock” and thus to begin meetings later than the scheduled time), etc.  That is, we show a willingness to enter into their lives and culture and ways.  We strive to be like Filipinos.

More significant than these types of things is the need to understand the religious background of Filipinos.  We need to know what that background is, whether Roman Catholic, Pentecostal, Baptist, or some other religion.  This affects how we speak to them about certain things – e.g., the sacraments, the special gifts of the Spirit, or dispensationalism.  It also affects what we speak about first – e.g., we do not immediately criticize them for their erroneous beliefs, but instead discuss what we might have in common and/or present the basic truths of the gospel.

But what about being all things to all men within the USA and Canada?  Are there things that we need to be aware of and adapt to here?  The answer is, yes.  There are different cultures within our home countries.  You will not always be witnessing to white, Dutch Americans.  You will not always be witnessing to Christians.  There are many different nationalities and religious backgrounds.  Also, the experiences and circumstances of each individual you witness to differs greatly.  Thus we need to ask ourselves, how must I be all things to an unbelieving neighbor?  How to someone at work who curses, parties, and boasts of sin?  How to a person who is divorced and remarried?  How to a family member who never comes to church?  How to an ungodly person who is a drunk or a homosexual?  How to those from different races (Mexicans or African Americans)?  How to those who serve other gods (Muslims or Hindus)?

1 Corinthians 9:19–23 guides us in our answers.  Verse 22 mentions being “all things to all men.”  Verse 19 indicates that this means being a “servant unto all.”  That is, being “all things” means being “a servant.”

A servant gives up his rights and freedoms.  He is at the mercy of his master.  He cannot think about and be focused on himself.  That’s what we must do in witnessing.  We must forget about ourselves.  If it helps our witness, we are willing to sacrifice our personal comforts, our plans for the day, our own name and reputation, our personal opinions and/or preferences.

To help us in understanding the idea of being all things to all men, the apostle Paul gives us some examples.  He mentions that he was a Jew to the Jews.  If he was with Jews who wanted to keep the Old Testament feasts, Paul joined them in doing so.  If he was with Jews who refused to eat unclean meat, he also refrained from doing so.  If he was with Jews who still gathered for worship on the seventh day of the week, Paul worshiped with them in the synagogues on that day.  Paul knew very well that Christ had come and had fulfilled the ceremonial laws, but during the period of transition from the Old to the New Testaments, he did not immediately condemn the Jews for not believing this – not by his words, nor by his actions.

Paul also mentions that he was a Gentile to the Gentiles (to those that were without the law).  If they ate pork, he ate it too.  If they ate meat sacrificed to idols, he also ate that meat.  Paul did not live and behave as a Jew when he was with the Gentiles.  Nor did he expect them to do so.  He did not require that the Gentiles conform themselves to Jewish laws and practices.

Much more significant than the example of Paul is the example of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He, more than anyone, became all things to all men.  He, more than anyone, became a servant.  He became a man in order to save men.  He made himself poor for those who were poor.  He even died for those who were dead.  He became all things to us in order to accomplish our salvation.  He became all things to us in order to fulfil and thus also to declare the gospel to us by his life and work.  He became like us in all things, sin excepted.

These examples clearly show that when we witness, it is not about us – our name, opinions, or preferences.  The important thing on our minds is the person to whom we are witnessing.  As servants, we forget about ourselves and do everything we can to win others to the faith.  We avoid driving them away.  We strive to build a rapport with them.  We seek to establish a friendship and a connection.  We show that we care about them.  We work to create an atmosphere that is friendly and thus conducive to their being interested in the truth.

We do well to examine ourselves in this regard.  If it is true of us that we come across as considering ourselves better than others, or holier than others, or more knowledgeable than others, then we fail to be all things to all men.  If we give the impression that we are always right, that we are right with regard to everything, and that we have nothing to learn, then again we fail to be all things to all men.  And if ever we give the impression that we are absolutely sure that we are going to heaven but not so sure about that as regards those to whom we witness, once again we fail to be all things to all men.

However, the idea of being all things to all men needs to be clarified.  If we take and apply the language of the text to our lives, what does it really mean?  Does it mean being a drunk to a drunk, a partier to a person who parties, a drug-user to a drug-user?  Does it mean being a movie-goer to a movie-goer, or a Sabbath-breaker to a Sabbath-breaker?  Does it mean being one who curses and swears to someone who curses and swears?  Does it mean that we should join an unbeliever in his worldly activities in order to establish common ground and thus have an opportunity to witness?

At times, we might be tempted to think along such lines.  One might be inclined to say, “If I’m invited to a party with an unbeliever, then I should probably go.  By saying yes, I won’t offend or upset him.  And that will give me an opportunity to witness.”  Or someone else might say, “It’s okay to be a friend to an unbeliever.  It’s even okay to be a boyfriend or girlfriend.  Being all things to all men means I can be and should be.  And that will give me so many opportunities to witness to him/her.”

I trust that we are all wise enough to know this is wrong.  For one thing, it is contrary to the theme text for our YP Convention – “That ye may be blameless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:15).  It is also clearly contrary to the fact that our own lives must be a witness to others.  Besides, do we really think it will work to lead a drunk or adulterer or Sabbath-breaker or a cursing and swearing unbeliever to Christ and to the church by joining him in his sinful activities?  The answer is obvious.

Being all things to all men does not mean being absolutely all things to all men.  It refers, rather, to being all things that are lawful.

We may not be like those to whom we witness as regards what is wrong or immoral or forbidden.  When it comes to godly living, there may never be any caving in or compromise.  Never may we say, “I will go along to the party with others from school or work or college so that I can witness to them if they do wrong.”  Never may we say, “I will be a friend to an unbeliever and date him/her for a while because then I will have opportunity to witness.”  Never may we say, “I will try to be like them in every possible way.  I will look like them, act like them, and speak like them, so that then they will be receptive to my witness.”

Being all things means being willing to be like and to adapt to others with regard to the adiaphora – the things indifferent.  These are things concerning which there is no direct command given in scripture.  These are the things concerning which there is no right or wrong.

In this connection, we do well to be careful not to be too quick to judge things as wrong.  That is always a temptation whenever people cross our paths who are different from us.  What we need often to remind ourselves concerning others is this, “What they do or think or say is not necessarily wrong, it might simply be different.”

This is perhaps our greatest struggle in witnessing – we are quick to judge.  If someone’s worship style is different, we consider it to be dead wrong.  If someone is unemployed, we immediately judge him to be lazy.  If someone is an Arminian, we right away figure it is a waste of time to try to convince him otherwise.  If a person is of a different nationality or skin color, we are quick to think that God is less likely to save that person, and in sinful pride we consider ourselves more lovable in the eyes of God and thus more savable.

Instead, we need humbly and patiently to seek to understand those we meet.  We need to be sensitive to their struggles, their current beliefs, and their possible reactions to what we might say.  We need to let them know they are important to us.  We need to make ourselves approachable and thus to create an atmosphere in which they are interested in what we say to them concerning God and the gospel of his grace in Christ.

God has given us a wonderful gospel to bring to others.  God is pleased to use us and our witness to gain others to Christ.  The apostle Paul spoke of his goals (1 Cor. 9:23): “That I might gain the more” and “that I might by all means save some.”  He mentions these goals five times – once in each verse.  He was zealous and passionate about winning others over to the faith.  May we be motivated by this as well, with a view to the salvation of the elect.  And may God bless our efforts and use our faithful witness to draw his chosen ones to the church and thus to Jesus Christ.

 

*Rev. Daniel Kleyn is a missionary to the Philippines

About one year ago, a group from the Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church in Singapore began publishing a bimonthly periodical designed to provide “a platform for youths to read and write Godly Christian literature. It is to encourage youths to make the study of God’s doctrine a personal priority and a common activity regardless of age.” They have expressed a desire for support from Beacon Lights and would like to work together to promote our publications. In an effort to minimize shipping and printing costs, they are publishing an electronic copy which you can receive by contacting Josiah Tan (josiahtanrs@googlemail.com). They receive an electronic copy of Beacon Lights for distribution in Singapore.

Their fourth issue, September 2010, featured an anniversary celebration of “23 Years of the Grace of God.” In an effort to draw us closer together as young people of Reformed faith, we include here a sample of some of the material found in their publication called Salt Shakers. Below is a brief introduction to their new publication.

The magazine committee in the past week has decided on our magazine name which is Salt Shakers based on these following texts:

Joel 3:16 KJV: “The Lord also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the Lord will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel.”

Mark 9:49-50 KJV: “For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt. Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his saltiness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.”

Matthew 5:13, 14, 16 KJV: “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. … Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

Leviticus 2:13 KJV: “Every oblation of thy meat-offering shalt thou season with salt, neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meat-offering: with all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt,”

Luke 14:34-35 KJV: “Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill; but men cast it out. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear”

The objectives of the magazine can be summed up by our magazine objective statement: “Salt Shakers is a platform for youths to read and write godly Christian literature. It is to encourage youths to make the study of God’s doctrine a personal priority and a common activity regardless of age. Ultimately to provoke us daily to seek God, love Him and love His people.”

That would be a short summary of what Salt Shakers hopes to carry out.

Dear Readers

It is great to once again be able to share with you the Word of God, and His testimonies through our lives, by way of this publication, Salt Shakers. It is indeed a privilege to write for our Lord. Nothing we say or write in this life, however wise, will ever be remembered for years. But when we put down in words our confession of the truth and power of God’s Word, we speak and write things that are for eternity. Without doubt, the writers and servants of Salt Shakers are blest. We pray, and hope, that our Lord blesses you as much as He has us, as you read and meditate on the articles contained in here.

This issue is released in conjunction with the 23rd Anniversary of Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church. It is a joyous occasion as we reflect on how our Lord has led us through all these years and also wonder about the great things He has in store for us as a church. I would like to share from Ezekiel 16 as we look back at the amazing grace and mercy that God has shown to His church and look forward to its glorious adorning and perfection.

We were pathetic beyond words, and it is difficult to express it in better terms than the prophet Ezekiel. As individuals we were brought out of darkness into light and made alive from being dead in sin. Even now, we struggle with the old man in us and daily increase our debt to our Lord Jesus Christ. As a church, we also constantly fail to be the witness that we should be. We struggle with doctrines because we are weak and do not understand many things. But God is merciful, and His unfailing love covers our nakedness. We were so unlovable, that no one would offer love. But, even if someone offered, no common love would have been sufficient, as only His love could fully cover the extent of our nakedness. It was an impossible situation. God’s grace was our only hope, and so we are of all men most blessed, as those who are in the gracious Covenant of God.

Celebration for its own sake profits little, especially if it is man-centered. As we celebrate how far we have come, we should also remember the great debt that we have been forgiven of. In this frame of mind, our service to God becomes more and more acceptable as we say with John the Baptist, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).

Another useful application, as we remember how much we owe, is that which we can draw from Matthew 18:21-35. We have been brought from an extreme of poverty—owing more than everything, to an extreme of riches—owning more than everything. How do we behave then? The parable shows us that it is simply unreasonable if we fail to forgive those around us! Of course there are many human obstacles that would prevent us from forgiving others. We might be unwilling to show forgiveness because we feel that the other person owes us too much. We might be unwilling to forgive because the other person has not begged us enough. We might even be unwilling to forgive in false holiness that forgiveness would show we have compromised on our high Christian standards!

Whatever our weakness is, God knows, and he still tells us “seventy times seven.” The only reason we need for forgiving our brother is that we were forgiven of so much more. The focus is not on our unwilling hearts, or on the debt owed to us, but on the cross of Christ. If you, often times, run there to beg forgiveness from your Creditor, then you must forgive your brother.

Do you know of someone you have told yourself that you would never forgive? Forgive, and tell him or her that the only reason is because Christ has forgiven you. Should our Lord Jesus use this to bring a lost sheep into the fold, it will truly be cause for celebration!

As we celebrate our 23rd Anniversary, may we never forget where we came from, and remember the forgiveness of our brother we owe to our Lord.

Christ regardless, Paul

 

Letters to CERC

Rev. Daniel & Sharon Kleyn

Protestant Reformed Foreign Missions—The Philippines—Rev. Daniel Kleyn P.O. Box 1173, Antipolo City Post Office, Antipolo City, Rizal 1870, The Philippines. Phone: 011-63-2-284-5603; E­mail: d.kleyn@prca.org.

Dear Youth of the CERC, Greetings from the Philippines!

It is a joy to extend to you, from just a relatively short distance away, my congratulations for this your church’s 23rd anniversary. We join you in thanking the Lord for blessing you with and in the truth of His Word, and for His faithfulness in preserving you in that truth. It is our prayer that you may continue to experience these blessings from above.

I know from my own observation through our recent visit among you that the Lord has blessed your church with a large group of godly young people and young adults. We see in this the evidence of God’s covenant faithfulness. He has fulfilled and is fulfilling His promise to save and gather His church in the generations of believers and their seed.

At the same time we realize that you, the youth, are the future of the church there. Thus you are crucially important for the church’s continued existence. Under God’s blessing, you will be the future fathers and mothers, and leaders and office-bearers in the church. With this in mind it is my prayer that you youth will remain steadfast and immovable in the ways of God.

Perhaps this is difficult at times, also because of the reality that you are a relatively small and isolated church in Singapore and in Southeast Asia. But be assured that you do not stand alone. This is true, first of all, because the Lord is with you. But it is also true because of fellow believers here in the Philippines who, with you, also love and confess and defend the glorious truths of the gospel of God’s sovereign and particular grace. May this be an encouragement to you, as I know it is to the believers here when they hear of you and of your commitment to God’s truth. May God be pleased to provide ways in which we are able to continue to encourage each other—even in person, the Lord willing.

Again, thanks very much for enabling my wife Sharon and me to visit this past June. We thoroughly enjoyed our time with you all in Singapore and at the June Camp, and came home here with many good memories.

Congratulations and God’s blessing to you all. “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle” (II Thess. 2:15).

Prof. Herman Hanko

Congratulations on this significant milestone in the history of Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church. Your existence today as a congregation is solely due to the mercy and grace of our covenant God. In a certain way I am almost as aware of this as many of you are. I, along with Rev. Van Baren and our wives, did participate in the activities of CERC from the time of its organization. I well recall the organization of the congregation, the installation of its first office bearers, and the ordination of its first pastor. It all took place in the Kampong on River Valley Road, and the pictures of that event have a treasured place among our many pictures of our travels abroad.

I, with Prof Dykstra, was in Singapore when the congregation was meeting in its own place of worship on Tessensohn Road. I preached for the congregation and spoke various times in that building; I and Prof. Dykstra met with the Session in the upper room. This was the one time I was in Singapore without my wife. When Mrs. Hanko and I were in Singapore for six months from October, 1999 to March, 2000 we spent many happy hours with the congregation when it was meeting in the Bible House. We were there frequently to preach, and remember well the times of fellowship we had.

In the last two or three years we have been in Singapore four or five times. You will all remember how I told the congregation, early in these visits, that we would probably not see each other again until we met in heaven. How little we knew then of God’s plan and purpose for us in our lives. And now we hope to see you all again shortly, if the Lord wills it. But the history of CERC is not only one of moving about for places of worship and visits by me and my wife; it is also a history of considerable trouble. The Lord has led the congregation through many difficult times. It was difficult when the congregation had reluctantly to bid farewell to Pastor Mahtani because of serious incompatibilities. It was surely a very trying time when the Lord took from the congregation its shepherd, Pastor Cheah. But indeed in the memory of most of you the most grievous event was the sharp disagreement with many in FERC over the question of divorce and remarriage. That brought about a necessary but sad breach with others who had been one with you in the household of faith.

All these difficulties have this result that today there are now only a few members who were members of CERC when it was first organized. But the congregation was preserved through all these troubles and today stands as a monument to God’s faithfulness in preserving a Reformed witness in Singapore. Not all the struggles are over and not all the difficulties have been overcome; but you may be confident that the Lord who has preserved you up to this point will surely continue to be your strength and help.

Mrs. Hanko and I have been very close to the work of CERC in the last few years. You were never far from our thoughts, and many were the prayers we made for you in our own devotions and in congregational prayers in the churches of our denomination. You have become dear brothers and sisters in the Lord and we have that sense that the cause of CERC (the cause of our Lord Jesus Christ) is also our cause as well as yours.

May our God who has preserved you all these years, also preserve you in the years to come. May you grow in grace and the knowledge of the great truths of the Reformed faith and may your witness in Singapore and in SE Asia become more widely heard that you may be an instrument of Christ to gather His church in your part of the world.

To God alone be the glory! May it be His will that we see each other in a few weeks.

Looking Back and Looking Forward

Being personally part of the history of Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church (CERC) for some 15 years, and having read its history since its institution in 1987, I must say, as the prophet Jeremiah spoke of Judah in her captivity, that “it is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22-23).

I do not intend to pen down a lengthy reflection on the entire history of the church (I think that should be reserved for the occasion of the church’s 25th anniversary in 2012, God willing, and perhaps it would be more meaningful and appropriate to get some founding members of the church to author this), but just share some brief thoughts with regards to how I have seen God lead CERC over the past few years.

The past five years has undoubtedly been a trying time for the church. We went through our first ever doctrinal controversy in the denomination. In the early stages of that period, the Lord took home our then-resident minister, the late Pastor Cheah. This “double-trial” tested the unity of the church severely. There was tension and uncertainty in the air. Many members were unsettled and undecided as to what to do. Fellowship was strained and spirits were downcast. All, young and old, were discouraged. The vitality and zeal of the church diminished. A flock without its shepherd at a time of doctrinal controversy seemed destined to be scattered. But the Lord carried us through.

Behind His frowning Providence, the Lord has His perfect plan. He provided another resident minister for us in Pastor Paul Goh, as well as new elders and deacons. Over time, new members settled down and gradually but surely, the life of the church returned. The church took on a new character and “face,” with renewed love and zeal for the truths of sovereign, particular grace and the doctrine of the covenant. In this regard, I am especially thankful for the coming of Professor Hanko over the past two years to help us and reinforce these truths through his clear and powerful preaching and teaching. The heightened interest in these precious truths among the young people of the congregation was also evident as they initiated the study of Reformed doctrines in their meetings and Covenant Instruction classes. The publication of this very magazine is testimony to their desire to learn, apply and spread the Reformed faith!

The Lord has preserved CERC through one of the most difficult times in her history. It was painful and wearisome during the period of the controversy, but looking back, I would say: “we were better for it.” We have developed a greater appreciation for the truths of sovereign, particular grace and the unconditional nature of the covenant. The church has become more united in the truth, in our fellowship and in our mission to preach the gospel of sovereign grace. The Lord would have the church purified in the crucible of the doctrinal controversy. As we emerge from the controversy, may we not forget the lessons we have learned. It is my prayer that God would imbue in each of us a passion to know, maintain, defend and develop the precious heritage of the Reformed faith that He has entrusted to us. May He make CERC a pillar and ground of the truths of sovereign, particular grace and of the unconditional covenant in our generations.

What does the future hold for CERC? I do not know what tomorrow may bring, but I know God holds tomorrow. He has gone before us. He is already there. No doubt there will be more difficulties, challenges and perhaps controversies, but our confidence must always be in the Lord. For He is the ever faithful One, Whose love never changes. Through every mountain and valley that He would lead His church, He will never leave her nor forsake her. “Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me” (Isa. 49:16).

Now and always, our confession remains “Our help is in the Name of Jehovah, Who made heaven and earth” (Psa. 124:8).

Elder Kong Wee

Desiring the Office in a Reformed Church

It is the joy of every godly parent to bring up god-fearing covenant children, and greater joy it is to hear that their sons desire the office in a reformed church. It is therefore my delight to advise a young man desiring the office because he desires a good work. One of the first questions in this young man’s mind is whether it is God’s will or whether God is calling him to the office. Is that desire an indication that God wants him to be in such offices? I hope he will find here some principles which will guide him to answer those questions.

The Call

In the first place, I am convinced that he is to prepare himself for the office without first asking or knowing if God wants him in it. God does not call a man to office by some mystical internal call known only to him. There is only one way that God calls a man to office—through the church. But how does the church know who to call? The Heidelberg Catechism in Lord’s Day 21 Q&A 55 summarizes God’s calling to every believer within the church when it says, “…that everyone must know it to be his duty, readily and cheerfully to employ his gifts, for the advantage and salvation of other members.” It speaks of ‘employing his gifts.’ There are no gift-less Christians (Rom. 12:6) but there are three types of gift users. Those who use them for the salvation of others, those who use them for themselves and those who do not use their gifts. It is when the young man performs his duty that the church will recognize God’s calling for him and extend the call to him.

The use of gifts must not be equated with being active in church activities. While it is a good thing, it is not necessarily a good measure of a man’s qualification for office. It is a common mistake to nominate men who are “active in church”. Active members often stand out in the crowd but the church must look out for members with the qualifications in 1 Timothy 3 and who use such gifts for the salvation of other members. An example of such gifts is being apt to teach. For both pastors and elders, the ability to diligently study the Word of God is necessary. The form for the ordination of elders says this about the need to be apt to teach: “…for the performance of which [watching diligently against the wolves] the elders are duty bound diligently to search the word of God, and continually be meditating on the mysteries of faith.” The young man ought to be able to do such before he is in office as entering the office will not make him suddenly knowledgeable in the word of God. The church needs men who are able and willing to defend the faith, not great organizers or people with abilities to lead it forward in the next lap.

Until the young man is already diligently using his gifts for the good of members in the church, which is his basic Christian calling, he is outside the radar of the church’s search for office bearers.

Qualifications

The qualifications have been expounded by many at great length and I must insist that these qualities are not opinions or words of wisdom but scripture prescribed requirements. Except for that of ruling one’s house well, being apt to teach and not being a novice, all the qualities listed are to be expected in every regenerated child of God. More so, it must be true of office bearers so that they can be an example to the flock. These requirements must not be compromised for the sake of filling vacancies.

This is not to say that only a perfect man will do because then no one would qualify in this life. The Lord uses the weak things of this world to do His work so that all glory goes to him alone. It is a true saying that “…when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Cor. 12:10). The qualifications of the offices are qualities given by God as He sanctifies us, so that in our service to God we can only say “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil 4:13). Therefore, the church must look out for men “full of the Holy Ghost,” that is, men who are evidence that God sanctifies and chastens because the Lord only sanctifies whom He loves. The evidence of God’s love in the man is his love for the brothers, the members of the church (1 John 4:21).

The Church

It must be remembered that this whole matter is first and foremost about the Church and not about the person. The local church, as part of the Universal church, is a very special entity in this world. She consists of those called out of this world to be members of the body of Jesus Christ. Unlike membership in an earthly organization where members voluntarily join for some benefits, Christ saves us into the church. None of the true members of the church would have joined voluntarily and no heavenly benefits would have enticed sinners dead in sins except God had chosen them before the foundation of the world and given them faith to believe. So the young man must remember that the church consists of sinners saved by grace who in this life continue to struggle with the power of sin and the weaknesses of their flesh. As a member in this imperfect body of Christ, he seeks her good with every gift that God gives him. More than just desiring the office, he cannot allow himself to neglect the apple of God’s eye bought with the blood of Christ. He is duty bound to prepare himself to be ready to answer when called to serve in the special offices.

Furthermore, desiring the office is equivalent to desiring the work of Jesus Christ in the church. Every child of God, without exception, must be a servant of Jesus Christ but some, the Lord calls to be chief among us. To these, the Lord says, “whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant” (Matt. 20:27). Faithful servants do not lord over God’s heritage but use their gifts to serve them. A faithful and diligent servant “will purchase to themselves a good degree” but mediocre servants put the church at risk of having its candlestick removed (Rev. 2:5).

Considering the Call

How should you consider a call that the church extends to you to serve in one of the offices of Christ? This call means that the church recognizes that you have been faithful in the office of believer and now calls you to a specific office. It is not a promotion but a call to already faithful servants to take up a specific and honourable task.

Such calls from Christ, through His church, must be considered with all due diligence. Throw false modesty out of the window when the Master calls. As I said in the beginning, you should have prepared yourself for it before and, with few exceptions, be ready to give the answer “Lord, send me.” We have to humbly accept that there are times when the Lord does put us in difficult circumstances in life when it will not be advisable for us to be in the office and it pains us to have to say “no.” If, after much prayer, you have to reject the call, a substantial reason must be given. To be godly is every man’s calling but not every godly man is ready for the office.

In a Reformed Church

The young man desiring such office must be an example of submission to the rule of the elders. In the Reformation, God returned to the church such offices and the truth of the plurality and equality of elders so that there is no hierarchy where one elder or pastor rule above others. There is only the rule of Christ in the church and it is through the rule of the elected elders.

Any church that calls itself reformed but is dominated by an elder or pastor denies the rule of Christ and is far from being reformed. I doubt an office in such a church is desirable or worth consideration because they essentially deny Christ. In fact, my advice to the young man would be to come out of an apostate church because by continuing in her, he bears the corporate responsibility of her errors and is guilty before God for propagating her errors.

Finally, office bearers are mere men, unable of themselves to do the work; but like us, they can do all things through Christ Jesus. We pray that God may replenish them with gifts of wisdom, courage, discretion and benevolence so that they may take heed in doctrine and life, keep out the wolves, reprove the disorderly and comfort the poor with the Word of God. We also pray for ourselves, that God will give us grace to submit to their rule, that His holy name may be magnified and the kingdom of Christ may be enlarged.

Deacon Chan

Remembering the Lord’s Day

On 11 May 2010, the Reformed Reading Book Club met to review and discuss the pamphlet on “Remembering the Lord’s Day” written by Prof Engelsma of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America. Though this is only a ten page pamphlet, Prof Engelsma has concisely pointed out the essence of keeping or remembering the Lord’s Day.

In his introduction, Prof. Engelsma equated the Lord’s Day to the dikes in The Netherlands that keep back the threatening seas and preserve the Hollanders from destruction by the seas. In his analogy, he explained that the Lord’s Day holds back the raging waves of materialism, earthy-mindedness and pleasure-madness that threaten to engulf the Church and the Christian.

In the subsequent three sections, Prof Engelsma stressed and elaborated the one and fundamental truth of Sabbath observance: As of today, or in the present time, and according to the Fourth Commandment, Jehovah God still sets apart one day of the week as a special day and requires His people to remember this day by ceasing from their secular work and play, in order to devote themselves to worship Him. He also gave both the Biblical and confessional proof to show that remembering the Lord’s Day is the will of God.

In the last three sections of the pamphlet, Prof Engelsma gave some ideas on how we can go about remembering the Lord’s Day.

Prof. Engelsma emphasized the urgency of remembering the Lord’s Day and he gave three reasons for his emphasis:

  • First, keeping the Lord’s Day is a commandment that belongs to the first table of the Law.
  • Second, the ‘Lord’s day’ belongs to the risen, glorious Lord Jesus Christ. It is not our day.
  • Third, by the Lord’s grace, we receive the greatest benefit of rest, by remembering the Lord’s Day, because the Sabbath was made for man.

In our discussions, we asked ourselves these questions:

  • What does the Lord’s Day mean to you and me?
  • Does keeping the Lord’s Day still apply to Christians today or is it only valid in Old Testament times?
  • Does keeping the Lord’s Day require Christians to cease from work and play on that day?

We concurred with Prof. Engelsma that the Lord’s Day is still applicable to Christians today, and of the importance and urgency of keeping the Lord’s Day. The Lord’s Day is a sacred day, out of the seven days of the week, set aside for God and for our spiritual rest.

The Lord’s Day is a day where we come to meet God, worship Him, sing praises to Him and enjoy fellowship with the saints. The Lord’s Day is a time when we hear the preaching of the Word of God as we have been hearing the preaching of the world and the lies of the devil for most of the time during the week. As faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Rom 10:17), we come to receive the Word of God on the Lord’s Day. Through receiving the word of God, we will learn more of God, understand more of His will for us and be reminded of the blessing of the forgiveness of sins. The Lord’s Day is a place where we can have a foretaste of heaven; entering into the heavenly kingdom and having a glimpse of heavenly worship. While most of the time in the week, we are subject to the unrest in the world, the Lord’s Day brings us into His sanctuary where we can find peace and rest in the presence of God.

As those in the office of believers, we are always on the receiving end on the Lord’s Day; however, for the office of the pastor, instead of receiving, he gives the word of God to the people through the preaching from the pulpit.

Lastly, we all recognized that to be in church the whole day on the Lord’s Day takes effort. We can do our part by encouraging each other, out of love one for another and love for God, to keep the Lord’s Day Holy, as a whole day.

Bro. Seow Thong

Discussion Outline for 2009 YP Convention

References

  • OT – Gen. 3:15; Deut. 33:28; II Chron. 18:1-3, 19:1-2; Psa. 139:21-22; Amos 3:3
  • NT – Matt. 7:13-14; II Cor. 6:14-18; Eph. 5:11; Jam. 1:27; I John 2:15-17; Rev. 18:4

Discussion Questions

  1. What is the antithesis?
  2. What does it mean to live an antithetical life?
  3. What light do the above passages shed on this?
  4. When did the antithesis begin? Who put it in place? (See Gen. 3:15)
  5. What doctrines form the basis of the antithesis?
  6. Genesis 17:7, along with James 2:23
  7. Romans 9:13 and Ephesians 1:4
  8. John 3:3 and Titus 3:5
  9. Would it be helpful or even preferable for us to live in isolated communities (e.g., start a separate Protestant Reformed community) so that we are protected from the ungodliness of the world? Or would such an attempt fail? If so, why?
  10. How should the admonitions of Rom. 12:2, II Cor. 6:14-17, etc., be applied to the following? That is, how should you as young people be obviously different from the world in these areas of your lives?
  11. Entertainment (Music, Movies, Video games, etc.)
  12. Alcohol
  13. Work
  14. Finances
  15. Clothing
  16. Friendships
  17. Dating
  18. Family life
  19. Any other areas?
  20. Discuss how living antithetically should be evident in our use of the Internet.
  21. What may we look at? What must we never look at?
  22. Are there wrong ways to use social networks (Facebook, MySpace, etc.)?
  23. What can we do to protect ourselves from the evils on the Internet?
  24. Discuss how Job 31:1 and Psalm 101:3 can be applied to our use of the Internet.
  25. How can young people help and encourage each other in living the antithetical life?
  26. God’s people are called to fight a spiritual battle (Eph. 6:10-18).
  27. Where does the battle begin? That is, what enemy must we fight first of all?
  28. How do we go about fighting the devil and the world?
  29. What is the only possibility of our being faithful to this calling?

Rev. Daniel Kleyn was born “down-under” in Tasmania, Australia on July 14, 1966. He is the second-oldest in a large family and has ten brothers and three sisters.

His parents, Nicholas and Luberdina (Ina) Kleyn, have been in the USA for about three years. This is the second immigration they’ve made. In the 1940’s, while they were children, they immigrated from the Netherlands to Australia. They now live in Grand Rapids, Michigan and are members of Grace PRC. They thoroughly enjoy being members of the PRC, living in the USA and, of course, being closer now to most of their children and grandchildren.

Rev. Kleyn moved a few times during his lifetime. As a boy, he grew up on two farms which were located in the Northwest part of Tasmania. First, he lived on a cattle farm in Lapoinya and then on a dairy farm in Natone. He and his siblings helped a lot with farm work which included regularly milking about 120 cows. Their work was often interspersed with fun or, at times, made to be fun.

As far as hobbies are concerned, they didn’t have a lot of time for them on the farm. Rev. Kleyn thinks his father wished they would consider milking cows or picking stones from the fields a hobby. Needless to say, they didn’t! When they did have time, he and his brothers fished. There were lobsters and trout in their dams and rivers. They (with their cousins) also hunted once in a while for rabbits or for wallabies (a small breed of kangaroo). They would eat what they shot. Kangaroo patties taste pretty good!

Together as a family they played a few outdoor sports such as Aussie rules football and cricket. With their large family, there were usually enough of them for a couple of teams!

Now, once in a while, Rev. Kleyn enjoys fishing either from a boat in the summer or through a hole in the ice in the winter. One other hobby he has had in the past and would like to get back into again someday is wood-working. For exercise, he enjoys bike-riding and rollerblading. He and his wife also enjoy a game of tennis once in a while.

Especially during his grade school years, Rev. Kleyn attended quite a few different schools. He attended Sister’s Creek Primary School for grades 1 through 3, and Boat Harbor Grade School for grades 4 and part of 5. Then he moved from Tasmania to Western Australia (the other side of the country) for a year and attended a grade school there. For grade 6, he moved back to Tasmania and attended Leighlands Christian School. Then he attended Burnie High School for grades 7 through 10. High school ends in Australia at grade 10.

After finishing high school, Rev. Kleyn worked for six years as an Instrument Mechanic/Technician. This involved mainly computer maintenance in a paper mill. He still enjoys fixing electronic equipment, if there’s occasion to do so.

During this time of working, he was convinced of the call to study for the ministry. He then attended Tasmania State University in Hobart for a year. Although the college was three and a half hours from where his parents lived and from the church he was a member of (The Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Burnie, Tasmania), he would travel back every weekend. Half-way through that year, he and his wife, Sharon, were married. After moving to Michigan in 1990, he attended Grand Valley State University for three years.

Peer pressure was present during Rev. Kleyn’s school years, especially in the public schools which he and his brothers and sisters attended (because there were no Christian schools available). Some of this involved (as it does for the youth today) the language people used, the mocking he and his family received because they attended church, the fun people would make of their large family and the ridicule for not joining with others in the use of the world’s entertainments. It helped to find and have Christian friends at school. In this way, peer pressure could be positive because they would stick together to help and encourage each other.

There were also times when there were pressures at work for Rev Kleyn. He was sixteen when he started his apprenticeship at the paper mill. Many of the men he worked with were non-Christians and would often talk about their weekend “fun”. It was also an environment in which he had to be willing to be part of the minority who prayed before having lunch each noon. Sometimes because of this and because of the conversation that would go on, he would have lunch at his workbench instead of in the lunch room.

This all helps Rev. Kleyn appreciate (and he hopes the young people in our churches do too) the benefits of having our own schools, including our own high schools. It also points to the benefit of being able to have a job, if that’s possible, with fellow believers in Christ instead of among ungodly people. It is true that one is forced to take a stand in an ungodly environment, but it is also easy to be affected and influenced.

Rev. Kleyn married Sharon Hanko. They met in Tasmania when she came with some friends and her parents to visit the church there (The Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Australia). They met in August of 1988, and were married in June of 1989 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. They lived in Tasmania for the first year of their married life.

The Lord has been pleased not to give them children, but their marriage has been blessed in many other ways. He has given them a strong marriage in the Lord. They are very thankful for the place and work He has given them in His church and Rev. Kleyn appreciates very much the help and encouragement his wife gives him in his calling and work. They have enjoyed being able to visit almost all of our PR churches together, as well as a number of our mission fields, and to make friends and acquaintances in all these places. The Lord is always good, providing grace according to their needs and using all things for their spiritual benefit.

Even before he was a teenager, the Lord used Rev. Kleyn’s parents to encourage him to consider studying for the ministry. Various other members and ministers of the church he was a member of did the same. Some other family members would also mention it once in a while.

The late Prof. Homer Hoeksema was instrumental in helping him begin his studies. This was during the time that he was his pastor in the EPC of Burnie, which was a most enjoyable and blessed time! He began studying New Testament Greek with Prof. Hoeksema, and then attended college for one year in Tasmania, and then three years in Grand Rapids, Michigan. When they knew of his desire to enter the seminary, family members and peers gave him much encouragement and support, also financially.

Seminary days were enjoyable for Rev. Kleyn. There were many memorable events. The rigors of practice preaching certainly leave a lasting impression on his mind, but he is very thankful for the way he and his fellow students were taught to preach. He remembers well the busyness, with many late nights and many early mornings being used to finish his assignments. Indirectly this was a good preparation for the work of the ministry. They also had times of fun together as professors and students.

After graduating from seminary, Rev. Kleyn was called to Edgerton Protestant Reformed Church in Edgerton, Minnesota where he has been preaching for about five and a half years.

Rev. Kleyn very much enjoys teaching catechism. What stands out is the fact that children have such a remarkable ability, at a young age, to learn the Scriptures and the truths of God’s Word. He has even seen this in children who are not yet in catechism. An experience that stands out is that he learned the hard way that when a first grader says he needs to go to the bathroom, he needs to go!

It is very rewarding for Rev. Kleyn to witness in the work of the ministry God’s work of grace in leading the youth of the churches to spiritual maturity so that they make confession of faith, marry in the Lord and take seriously the place Christ gives them in His church.

It is also rewarding for him to observe the work of the Spirit applying the Word preached to the lives of believers so that there is evidence of a striving to live a life of thankful obedience to God. There is also evidence of the people of God having strength of faith as they face and undergo the many burdens and trials of life.

Rev. Kleyn was not, of course, directly involved in the controversies of 1924 or 1953. He has, however, thoroughly enjoyed learning about this history of our churches, especially through first-hand accounts of the splits as related by his wife’s grandfather, Rev. C. Hanko. He has grown to appreciate God’s goodness to our churches through these controversies, as well as to see the importance of being well-acquainted with our history. It is his desire that our young people do, too.

To the men who are considering the ministry of the Word to be their calling, Rev. Kleyn has this advice: “Pursue this with zeal and with much prayer, especially in light of the need we have in our churches for ministers of the gospel. It is my hope and prayer that many more of the men in our churches would give serious consideration to this calling. It is a calling that can often be difficult, and the responsibilities of it are great. But it is certainly a great blessing and privilege to be used of Christ for the proclamation of His Word of truth and salvation. And it is a calling that I believe every young man should consider to some extent. It is true that not all are called, but all should at least consider whether or not they are.”

Regarding the attitudes and behavior of our young people, Rev. Kleyn knows that we are bombarded by worldly materialism. We live in much affluence. We all, including also the youth, need to fight against being tempted and affected by materialism.

One thing it would be good to see more of among the young people is that they make the church central in their lives. They are often tempted to place many others things first, such as recreation, college, a career, a boyfriend or girlfriend, etc. The church should be first, and thus such things as faithful attendance and making confession of faith.

Rev. Kleyn observes many encouraging things about our young people, such as the following: He sees their spiritual growth and maturing in the faith. He sees them defend the truths of the Reformed faith as graciously given us as churches. For example, he is aware of them defending our stand against common grace—and just recently of their speaking out (in school and/or college) against the movie, “The Passion of The Christ.” He is also encouraged to see them seeking out as friends those with whom they are one in the faith, through participating in the young people’s conventions and the young adult retreats. He knows for a fact that attending these activities often helps them in finding a godly spouse.

Excuses!

Excuses certainly permeate our society. Everyone wants to blame someone or something else. Daily we hear: “Don’t blame me!” “I couldn’t help it!” “It’s not my fault!” “I can’t help it that I’m this way!” “I wasn’t the only one who did it!”

Is our society really that bad? Indeed, it is.

Look, for example, at the justice system. Look at lawyers. The aim of many, it seems, is not, as it should be, to reveal the truth or to defend the innocent. Rather, they seek to defend the criminal by finding excuses for the criminal’s actions. Money, not justice, is often what motivates them.

Consider the excuses they come up with. The criminal is not guilty or responsible for what he has done. He has psychological problems or is psychologically unstable. He did not really know what he was doing. The environment or upbringing of the person is to blame. The result is that the criminal is not punished with the punishment that he deserves.

Excuses are often heard, also, in the practice of suing. One who injures himself never admits that his own carelessness or error led to that injury. It’s his boss’ fault. It’s the equipment’s fault. It’s his fellow worker’s fault. Even the notion of “no-fault” car insurance manifests this attitude.

Then you have excuses for immorality. The homosexual says he cannot help it, for he was born that way. It is (he claims) part of his makeup. And also abortion. People come up with hundreds of reasons for murdering a child through abortion. But really it all comes down to one thing—they refuse to bear the results and responsibilities for their actions. By having an abortion they are saying, in effect: “It’s not my fault. Don’t blame me for this.”

Unbelievable!

Excuses!

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Does this leave us unaffected? Do we, as Christians, ever claim that we are not responsible for what we are, for what we do, for what we say, or for what we think? Do those common excuses that we hear from the world ever come from our lips?

Excuses! Yes, we too use them. And not just sometimes, but often.

When we are irritable or easily upset, we blame it on stress.

When angry, we feel justified because of the seriousness of what that person has done to us.

When we are frustrated because something simply will not go as we would like it to, we blame it on the object of our frustration. “The stupid thing!”

When we should help out someone but do not want to do so, our excuse is: “We’re too busy.”

When we do something that is wrong and forbidden, we, especially in our youth, blame it on peer pressure. “Everyone else was doing it.” Or, “So and so made me do it.”

Excuses!

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Why are we so intent on using excuses? Why are we so eager to blame others? The answer is in one word: SIN.

We are all familiar with the story of the fall of mankind into sin through Adam and Eve’s eating of the forbidden fruit. But perhaps we are so familiar with the historical account of the fall, as recorded in Genesis 3, that we often fail to see the rich teaching of this chapter. Let us note a few things, then.

Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. They did it, not someone else. No one forced the fruit down their throats. Willingly and willfully they took and ate. But did they acknowledge this fact? No. For when God confronted them for their sin they were full of “excuses.” Immedi­ately after they fell into sin they were blaming others.

God came to Adam and Eve after the fall and confronted Adam directly concerning his sin: “Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?” (Genesis 3:11). What was Adam’s answer? He does not acknowl­edge, as he should have, that indeed he had eaten of the forbidden fruit. Instead, he has an excuse. “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat” (Genesis 3:12). In other words: “It’s not my fault. It’s the woman’s fault. She was the one who persuaded me to eat the fruit. I didn’t do it. Don’t blame me!”

But Adam does not blame only the woman. Far more serious was the fact that he blamed God. He said to God that it was the woman “thou gavest to be with me.” Adam claimed that if God had not given him Eve to be his wife he would not have sinned.

Then God turns to Eve. She, too, did not admit that she had done wrong. She, too, did not say: “Yes, I have broken Thy command and have eaten the forbidden fruit.” Rather she said: “The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.” It was the serpent’s fault.

Excuses!

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We must take note, however, of how God dealt with these excuses. God did not put up with them. When He pronounced punishment on Adam and Eve for their sin He completely ignored their excuses. It was as if God never even heard them. God did not, as we sometimes do, weaken His punishment because He saw some validity in the excuses. There is simply no mention made of the excuses in the punishment pronounced in Genesis 3:16-19.

Consider, for example, what God said to Adam. “Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee saying, Thou shalt not eat of it, cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life” (Genesis 3:17). God points out that Adam himself is to blame, for he hearkened unto the voice of his wife. Adam’s excuses are simply not a factor that God takes into consideration.

We, too, should have the same approach as God toward excuses. We must view excuses as God does. We must not put up with them.

If you are a parent, do not allow children to make excuses. It is often easy (and even desir­able) to make room for excuses. We all know that it is not pleasant or easy to give a child a spanking. An excuse from a child can therefore be the easy way out. But if you make room for excuses you are not correcting your child with his or her salvation in mind. We must recognize sin for what it is and punish it accordingly. Only then are we dealing with our children in love.

If you yourself sin, do not make excuses. Never say, “I couldn’t help it. Don’t blame me.” But say: “It is my fault. I did it. I’m to blame.” Only then can you confess your sin and find forgiveness from God.

Remember, with God excuses are invalid. That must be our attitude, too. If we make room for excuses, and if we are persuaded by them, we allow the sinner to walk the way that leads to hell. Excuses are sin. The truly penitent child of God does not excuse himself but admits his sin and seeks forgiveness from his ever-forgiving God.

Do not be influenced, therefore, by the world and its thinking and practices. Never give an ear to excuses. Never allow excuses to have a place in your life as a child of God.

It is important that we remember the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century. When we do so, not only is it important for us to consider the Reformers and their work, but we also need to be reminded of the great and seemingly unconquerable enemies of the Reformers. It is our purpose in this article to consider one of these enemies of the Reformation, the Anabaptists.

Whenever we consider any aspect of the Reformation, we realize anew that the Reformation was not an accomplishment of men, but a wonder work of God. The Reformers were indeed great men of God, but they could do nothing by themselves to overcome their enemies and to bring about reform. By taking note of the struggles of the Reformers, we are able more fully to appreciate the great heritage of the Reformed faith which we have received.

 

ENEMIES OF THE REFORMATION

In the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century, the Reformers, by God’s grace and guidance, overcame two kinds of opposition. Both of these opponents were a threat to the cause of the Reformation and thus the success of the Reformation depended upon the success of the Reformers in overcoming the opposition.

But what were these two major enemies which the Reformers faced? Are you able to mention them?

Perhaps the one that first comes to mind is the Roman Catholic Church. The Roman Catholics, in many ways, continually attempted to halt the progress of the Reformation. Yes, overcoming the Roman Catholics was essential to the Reformation. Perhaps we would even say that the most important battle of the Reformation was overcoming Rome and its errors.

But there was still another and perhaps more serious enemy – the radicals.

The Reformers not only faced the antagonism of the Roman Catholics on the right, but they also encountered opposition from radical movements on the left. It is here that the Anabaptists (the “Re-Baptizers”) fit in, for they were one of these radical groups.

 

NATURE OF THE ANABAPTIST MOVEMENT

The Anabaptist movement (as was true of most radical movements) arose from within the Protestant party. At first these radicals appeared to have a valuable contribution to make to the Reformation, for they were strong in their opposition to Rome and its errors and even seemed to stand for the right things.

Anabaptists were, however, a serious threat to the Reformers and the Reformation. Anabaptists were unhappy with both the direction and the pace of the Reformation and desired to bring about reform in their own ways – ways based upon a misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the Scriptures.

The Anabaptist movement was not, however, a unified movement. Some historians state that there were at least seven different kinds of Anabaptists, with some being more radical than others. Although the Anabaptists had certain beliefs on which they all agreed, in most areas they disagreed violently among themselves. This resulted in many schisms within the Anabaptist groups.

 

TENETS OF ANABAPTISM

The name “Anabaptist” (meaning “to re-baptize”), was given to the Anabaptists by their opponents. Although those who came up with this name perhaps intended it to be somewhat derogatory, it was nevertheless a true and appropriate title. The Anabaptists were not, however, fond of this title, for they maintained that they were not “re-baptizing.” They believed that their initial baptism as children was invalid and that their baptism as adults was the only true baptism.

The two main errors of the Anabaptist movement, errors which all Anabaptists held in common, were their heretical doctrines of a pure church of believers and of adult baptism. They believed that the true church was the church which contained only adult believers. This meant that only adults, those who confessed their faith, could be members. Infants, being unable to repent and believe, should not be baptized. It was necessary, therefore, to reject infant baptism.

Great diversity and disagreement prevailed, however, concerning the other beliefs and practices of the Anabaptists. For example, certain groups of Anabaptists were far more radical than others and even took up arms in order to defend themselves and to promote their cause. Other groups, such as the Swiss Anabaptists, were far less radical than the movements in Germany and the Netherlands and were known for their simple piety and strict morality.

Although many disagreements existed among the Anabaptists, yet it is easy to see from a consideration of their beliefs that the Anabaptists were a dangerous threat to the cause of the Protestant Reformation. The errors of the Anabaptists struck right at the heart of the Reformed faith – God’s covenant of friendship and fellowship with believers and their children.

 

CONCLUSION

It is never pleasant for the church to have to face and fight enemies. But God is sovereign. It is God Who sends the enemies to the church and He does so with a purpose. In God’s providence the Anabaptist heresy served to strengthen the Protestant Reformation.

The positive outcome of the rise of Anabaptism was the spiritual strengthening of the Reformation and of the Reformers.

The rise of the Anabaptist errors compelled the Reformers to find a Scriptural defense for infant baptism. The Reformers were thereby led to a better understanding of the important place of the children of believers in the covenant which God establishes with His people.

The confrontation between the Anabaptists and the Reformed is a wonderful testimony of God’s preserving His church and leading that church into the truth. It was God, not the Reformers, Who, by means of the confrontation, brought about the strengthening of the church and the development of the truth.  And it is God Who has given this heritage of truth to His church of today.

Let us remember the Reformation. Let us remember the Reformers. But let us also remember this enemy, the Anabaptists, first, so that we are wary of those who hold to these views today, and secondly, so that we appreciate more fully the wonderful heritage of truth that we have.

Maybe you are wondering what this is?  Yes, you knew there were a lot of different Presbyterian churches, but you have never heard of this one!  Well, in the light of this issue containing an article on the history of the Presbyterian/Scottish Reformation, I have been asked to write about the history of Presbyterianism in Australia, the land that many of you call “Down Under.”  I myself come from Australia, so I guess that is why I have been asked to write this article.

The Reformation in the 16th century caused many great changes in the lives of God’s people.  They were freed from the bondages of the Catholic religion, and the Christian Church made a stand for the Bible as the supreme and final authority.  Because everyone that claims the Christian name professes a belief in the Bible, it is right and necessary that creeds and confessions are written to set forth what the Bible is understood to teach.  It was because of this that in 1647 the Westminster Confession of Faith was formulated and written by delegates from England, Scotland and Ireland, and this confession has since then been the confession used by reformed Presbyterians.

At the time of the Reformation in the British Isles, Australia was still an unsettled country.  Presbyterianism was brought to Australia by settlers who came from Scotland.  Several Scottish families, who migrated to Australia in 1802 and in 1809, settled in the western parts of Sydney, on the East Coast of mainland Australia.  In this settlement they erected a stone structure for the purpose of a Presbyterian Church and school.  Shortly after this the first Presbyterian minister came to Australia in 1823, and he founded Scots Presbyterian Church in Sydney.  Other ministers of the Established Church of Scotland followed, and in 1840, a Synod of the Presbyterian churches in Australia was formed.  This Synod of Australia in connection with the Established Church of Scotland was an independent church with the same standards, formularies and laws as the parent church in Scotland.

In 1843, the event in Scottish history known as the Disruption also caused division within the established Presbyterian Churches in Australia.  The issue in Scotland was over the intrusion of the civil authority into the spiritual government of the church.  This caused the formation in Scotland of the Free Church of Scotland, which was opposed to the civil authority having the power to become involved in the government of the church.  In Australia there was no interference of this kind from the government, but the Synod of  Australia was connected to the Established Church of Scotland, and so they therefore had to make a decision on this issue.  The Synod decided not to change their name and connection to the Church in Scotland.  As a result of this, two other churches were formed, the Presbyterian Church of Eastern Australia and the Free Presbyterian Church of Australia Felix.

By the late 1800’s Presbyterian churches were established throughout all the states of Australia.  Many of these were independent churches.  In 1901, however, the Presbyterian Church of Australia was constituted.  This union provided a basis on which the main churches in each state could federate and yet preserve their separate identities.  This body is by far the largest Presbyterian body in Australia, and it became very liberal in theology.  However, in 1977, many left this denomination to join with the Methodist churches and form the Uniting Church.  This somewhat cleared the church of the more liberal minded element, but there are very few congregations that are still Reformed.  What is especially true of many of the churches is that the congregations are conservative or liberal, depending on their minister, and in this sense they are quite independent of each other.  There does not exist among these churches a unity to uphold the Truth, as we have within the Protestant Reformed Churches here in America.

The conservative and Reformed Presbyterian churches are generally very small in size, and in quite a number of cases are just single congregations.  Many of these churches have broken away from the declining mainstream Presbyterian churches.  The Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Australia, among others, has come to the Reformed faith out of an Arminian background, and so they have battled with trying to grasp the precious truths of the gospel.  This has been difficult because of their Arminian upbringing, but yet God has blessed them and enabled them to grow in their knowledge of the Reformed faith.

The Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Australia, which would be the most Reformed Church in Australia, was established in July of 1961.  In the 10 or so years preceding this there were groups of people from different denominations, such as Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, who were concerned with the departure of these churches from the essential truths of the Reformed faith.  Within these churches the complete authority and infallibility of the Scriptures was being denied and the lives of the members was being more and more in conformance with the world.  Eventually these concerned Christians left or were forced out of the churches where they were members, and in the early 1950’s a loose fellowship of believers came together.

For a number of years these people struggled to get established and to find a direction.  They went to and held many evangelical meetings and many came and made decisions for Christ, but still they did not grasp the real understanding of the gospel.  In the late 1950’s they came across some Reformed writings, such as Charles Spurgeon, and through this there was a revival of the truth.  The preaching was no longer man-centered, but became God-centered, as they grasped the truth of man’s depravity and the sovereignty of God.  It was then that they were formally constituted in Tasmania, and ordained three pastors, and also elders, in each congregation.

Many other struggles still had to be overcome.  Problems arose in the John Knox College, where the students for the ministry were being trained.  This was over the important truth of how the gospel is to be proclaimed.  The professors were teaching Arminianism, saying that it was up to man to accept Christ.  Because of this the students left the college and were trained under the ministers within the E.P.C.  Since then the church has continued to grow in their knowledge of the Reformed faith, and have come to grasp the covenant and the other precious truths of the Scriptures.  Even recently they have had to stand up against the error of saying that Christ in His human nature loves all men.

As members of the P.R.C. we are in a church that has had a long history in the Reformed faith and so we have a great heritage to be thankful to God for.  Let us be aware of the struggles that other churches go through in order to grasp and uphold the truths of the Scriptures, and let this remind us of all that our forefathers have done in establishing us in the truth.  We also are in a continual battle to uphold the truth, so may God give us the strength to fight this spiritual battle.  Above all, may we give thanks and praise to our covenant God for all that we have received and still receive daily from His gracious hand.

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Indiana Mini Convention Review 2021

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Editorial, November 2021: Catechism Season

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