Simply nauseating, isn’t it?
Already seven weeks before the holy day of Christmas, we may hear the children of Zion singing:
“You better watch out, you better not cry,
You better not pout, I’m telling you why,
Santa Claus is coming to town.
He is making a list and checking it twice,
He’s going to find out who is naughty and nice.
Santa Claus is coming to town.”
And sad it is that the familiar chords of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” are scarcely heard until the last few days preceding the event of Christmas. Santa Claus is heralded into the cities and homes with great honor and festivity. He is lauded into the cities and homes with great honor and festivity. He is lauded with songs and praise and frequently superstitiously even worshipped, and Jesus is given less place than the abject stable of Bethlehem.
Simply nauseating, isn’t it?
For weeks and weeks the excited mobs of men, women and children crowd the world’s metropolises, driving to insanity many a neurotic clerk, and appeasing the carnal greed of the insidious merchantmen. Thousands of dollars are wasted on trivial matters, and the various causes of the Messiah’s glorious kingdom often suffer want. Surely the blessed example of the Wise Men, who brought their gold, myrrh and frankincense to the crib of the Christ-child, is greatly disregarded in our modern celebrations.
Simply nauseating, isn’t it?
On the eve of the Christmas day, which is an excellent occasion for the families of Jerusalem to unite at the family altar with father leading the children to the remembrance of the holy narrative and unitedly to join in the beautiful anthem, “O Come Let Us Adore Him,” but Hiram, the eldest, must see Helen to surprise and please her with that precious ring. And Eleanor must be engaged at the neighbors, “taking care of the kids,” while the elders go out to celebrate. After all, it is Christmas Eve. Then, too, little Nancy and Bernard, who don’t know any better, are not satisfied until they have received and opened all their presents, and it is naturally almost an impossibility to begin anything with them after that.
Simply nauseating, isn’t it?
On Christmas Day, the services in God’s house are not considered to be of equal importance as those held on the Lord’s day, and so mother and an older daughter are permitted to remain home to prepare that “very special dinner.” And seeing that someone is home anyway, the smaller children might as well be home too, because they do have many new toys in which they are predominantly interested. Thus the house of God is meagerly attended on the special day.
We ask, “Isn’t this all very nauseating?” And yet it constitutes such a great part of the annual Christmas celebrations, not only and exclusively among the world that has no other Christmas, but also among the children of the church. How much richer, more enduring and spiritually gratifying our Christmas becomes when we spend all our energy, which otherwise we exert to wedge our way through the mad mob of shoppers, and all our wealth, which otherwise goes predominantly toward natural luxuries TO BEHOLD THE GLORY OF HIS NATIVITY.
And that is the accomplishment of a mighty faith.
For to behold his glory in such a way that it is obscured by nothing of the flesh and this world demands that all the celebrations of this joyous season are governed by that dominant principle that overcomes the world.
Moreover, the faith that incites us to behold the glory of Jesus is the very evidence of unseen things. When you and I go presently to Bethlehem to look upon him and to handle him who is the Word of Life, you must, upon failure to see his glory, not become disappointed in him but remember that faith declares of him:
“He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him.”
And yet, strange as it may seem, and even paradoxical as it may be, HE IS ALSO THE ALL-GLORIOUS ONE, GOD AND MAN, LORD AND KING, OF WHOM AND THROUGH WHOM AND UNTO WHOM ALL THINGS SUBSIST. Shall we not sing of him,” Lord, our Lord, Thy glorious Name. . . .”?
For his glory is the revelation of all his good and perfect virtues. That glory he will not give to another, nor can you see or find it in any other, because his name is The Lord. All the festivities and merry wishes of Christmas are not glorious, and there is in them no goodness or virtue, except that they begin and end in the glorious Jesus.
Would we therefore be really happy in this season of mirth, we must not only be told the Christmas story and perhaps add a bit of religious piety to our hilarity of the day, but we ought to dispose of all our external foolishness and live by faith and trust in God alone. We ought to go to Bethlehem and realize that
“In this the day the Lord hath made
To Him be joyful honors paid,
Let us Thy full salvation see
O Lord, send now prosperity.”
Then, though we are cast out of the world for his name’s sake, and have no more than a place in the stable with a few bands to cover our naked body, we are rich and prosperous, having more abundance than the ungodly, who without Jesus Christ live in untold wealth. For he was made poor for us, that we might be rich. He who did not consider it robbery to be God’s equal— for he is God—emptied himself and took upon himself the form of a servant, so that being deeply humiliated, he might obtain through obedience to the divine will the crown of glory for himself and all that the Father hath given him. There in the manger is the commencement of that glory. Behold it, believe it, trust and obey it: he is more precious than rubies or gold.
And the longer you and I stand at the side of his manger and look upon him in faith, the greater glory we behold. It surely would not hurt us to rise on Christmas morn with the breaking of dawn and spend the WHOLE day contemplating his glory. We may be sure that we would never exhaust the subject of our meditation, nor would we see more than our faith would desire. On the contrary, we would cultivate a love to know “More about Jesus.” Think of the revelation of glory in his birth. Born without the will of man, of a virgin through conception by the HOLY SPIRIT of God. Consider the PEACE which he came to establish, which not only surpasseth human understanding, but is the very power of God that keeps us—heart and mind—unto the salvation which is to be revealed in the last time through Jesus. Be mindful of the disturbance his coming created in the heavenly world, causing angels in great chorus to sing of his glory and majesty.
Oh, blessed Christmas with Jesus.
“My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness,
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus’ Name;
On Christ, the Solid Rock, I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand.”
In our previous article on this subject, we wrote primarily of the events of the life of the covenant youth which lead up to the state of marriage, or, the time of courtship. Three thoughts we expressed as “guiding principles” which, if heeded, would contribute to the assurance that one in the pre-marital state would find happiness and blessing. We stated that the courtship of covenant youth must, in distinction from the world’s increasing immorality, be characterized by chastity. A second thought was that in this courtship there must be spiritual compatibility. Spiritually mixed relationships conceive and bring forth misery and apostasy whereas “two that are agreed” walk together harmoniously in love. Our final thought was that whereas “the Lord brings to every man his wife” we must learn submission to His choice. We must not seek one who answers to the qualities of our carnal lusts but one who according to God’s standard is fully qualified as a life companion to assist us in the higher service of God. Along these lines our courtship will be fruitful unto a truly christian and richly blessed marriage.
In our present article we will continue these thoughts and this time consider especially the “institution of marriage” itself. One has no right to enter a relationship such as this without an understanding of what is involved and, consequently, we shall try to elicit from the Word of God a few “guiding thoughts” which we hope may prove helpful to a better Christian life in the marriage sphere.
Our first thought in this connection is that marriage is an institution of God. John Calvin wrote in his Institutes, “Marriage, as an institution is not only originated by God’s authority but is also sanctified by His blessing.” As Christians, it is salutary to be mindful of this important fact and that especially if our courtship is attaining maturity. The world ignores and disregards this truth and by and large considers marriage as a human agency by which man may legally procure the deepest satisfaction of his carnal nature. As a result such marriage is not enacted and perpetuated according to the ordinances of God and, therefore, cannot be blessed. “The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked” (Prov. 3:33). As covenant youth we are not to emulate this worldly way and seek marriage as a means unto self-satisfaction but bear consciously in mind the divine phase of this institution and enter it with the intent and purpose of making divine satisfaction. That is done when the ordinances and laws regulating life in this institution as they are set forth for us in the Word of God are properly and faithfully kept. Then “He blesseth the habitation of the just” (Prov. 3:33).
When covenant children enter this holy state, it is not only the relatives and friends of those to be married that are interested in the affair, but just as much and perhaps more so is the church concerned. She realizes that God, through covenant marriages, continues his church and in the families of believers bestows his blessings. Hence, our second thought is that “marriage ought to be performed by the church.” By this we do not mean that the “minister alone performs the ceremony in the church” as is the customary practice in many of our circles, but rather that the church, through its offices, the consistory, attend to the marriage of her children (see Article 70 of our Church Order). At such a marriage the Word of God is appropriately preached and the church, institutionally convoked, offers her prayers for the blessing of God upon the marriage that is being solemnized. Such a beginning is “in the Lord.” There are many, I think, who, because we have traditionally discarded this good practice of our fathers, are even averse to it today. They prefer the gaudy show of modern wedding to the simplicity of that which our fathers wisely prescribed. I would, therefore, encourage those who oppose “church weddings” to express openly their principle objections but at the same time may our consistories and parents further enlighten our youth regarding these matters and discourage the practice of “a wedding in the church” and cultivate the desire for simple, spiritual “church weddings.” This is an institution of God and primarily “the consistories shall attend to it….”
Our third and final thought has to do with the duties, privileges, purposes, and briefly, the relationships of the marriage state. Marriage is not a state that God commands us to enter, neither does he prohibit us from doing so, but it is left to the choice of the individual. Hence, those who choose entrance also willingly assume the duties. The husband affirms that he shall love his wife, lead her with discretion, instruct, comfort and protect her and labor faithfully to provide for the needs of his family . The wife, likewise, promises love, honor, reverence and obedience unto her husband in the sphere of all lawful things. These duties ought to be understood before the marriage bond is confirmed.
Then there are privileges in this new relationship which, if exercised in accord with the command of God, result in the blessed realization of the divinely instituted purposes of marriage. Man and wife, exercising marital cohabitation, experience the fellowship of two creatures whom God has not made separate but has created that they should be one. “It is not good that man should be alone…. I will make an help-meet for him” (Gen. 2:18). Man and wife, who are created physically and spiritually the counterparts of each other, complete one another’s life and joy. It is not good that one should be alone but that they should be together in the Lord. That is the fellowship of marriage.
In such a normal union the beginning of the home is made. For marriage also has its purpose in procreation and the establishing of the home. The christian home is the blessed fruit of the Christian marriage. The broken home, orphaned children and pitied vagabonds are the results of worldly union. As we sow we shall reap. The sowing era is “courtship” and the reaping time is “in the married state.” Our aim must always be the realization of fruits unto God manifest in a model Christian home. Many are the forces to combat in the striving toward that goal. Evil lurks on every side. Marriage is contracted for selfish purposes. There is a mad striving after “houses, beautiful furnishings, modern conveniences, automobiles, etc.” which, in our day, require years of combined labor of husband and wife. The children of the Lord are not wanted…at least for a time…and the “home” is not established. The goal of the Christian marriage is not attained and the true blessing of marriage is lost. As we approach the end of the ages, we must not expect this to improve but CHRISTIANS…young men and young women… “watch and pray that ye fall not into temptation.” Build your hopes, also in marriage, not in the things of this world but in the things of God.
That is Christian living!
GOD IS GOD!
To say less than this is to deny the simple but comprehensive revelation of this otherwise inexpressible truth. To say more than this is to philosophically impose our own foolish limitations upon the Infinite One and thereby destroy the truth. Let us, therefore, leave our confession in this simple form, the very utterance of which must needs impress us with the truth that our finite minds are incapable of comprehending and our sinful lips unable to express the incomparable greatness and absolute sovereignty of Him Who is alone GOD!
HE IS GOD!
This we believe with all our heart. Within us is the irrepressible desire of faith to say more about Him. Conscious of our own inability to do so, we turn in humble reverence to His own Word in order that we may repeat after Him what He first reveals as the truth concerning Himself. In the light of His Word we boldly confess, “Our God is Triune.”
This, we saw in the preceding issue, means that there are three distinct persons in the one Divine Essence; the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Proof of this may he found in the Holy Scripture in both the Old and New Testaments. Rather than elaborating upon this now, we refer you to the 9th Article of our Confession which supplies this proof. At present we are interested in seeing that this truth, so clearly revealed in the Word, is also reflected in the works of the Triune One.
Our eyes look upward to behold the heavens which He hath made and, lo, we see the sun, the moon and the stars, hundreds and thousands of them. These three are the bearers of light that remind us of the truth that, “God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all” (I John 1:5). In Him is all light and apart from him is darkness and desolation.
Again our eyes turn downward to look upon the world of vegetation with its threefold classification of “grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree” (Gen. 1:11) and in each of these we discern a three-parted creature with roots, plant and fruit. In its threeness lies its completeness and if any third is taken away, the creature is essentially destroyed.
Thus we are carried further to consider man, God’s covenant creature whom He made in His own image and likeness to manifest His praise in all the earth. Concerning man, God said, “It is not good that man should he alone; I will make him an help meet for him” (Gen. 2:18). In the creation of this help meet for man, God created potentially the family and instituted the home wherein the beauty of His triuneness is reflected in the highest sense. The family is one but in that oneness there is also a threeness consisting of father, mother and children. In the home God is revealed as the Covenant God Who establishes and maintains His covenant in the generations of His people. In the Christian home, therefore, the covenant life of God comes to manifestation in the relationships of parents and children and the more we live in the home from the consciousness of that covenant life, the more we will realize the significance of the truth of the Trinity.
The reason for this lies in the fact that the doctrine of the Trinity and that of the Covenant are inseparably connected. Were it true, as Unitarians claim, that God is One in Person and Essence, or, as Polytheists aver, that there are many gods, there could never be a revelation of the covenant. The covenant is essentially the relationship of friendship and fellowship between two or more persons that is based on personal likeness. Now if God is one in Person, He can have no fellowship. He can exercise no more friendship than a Robinson Crusoe on a desolate island. On the other hand, if He is many gods, the basis of covenant fellowship is lost in that there is no personal likeness and, consequently, there may be friction among the gods resulting in the very opposite of covenant friendship. But the truth is that the covenant has its highest and perfect realization within God in Whom the three Persons think, speak and act in one essence in eternal unity and live together the perfect Divine life in infinite glory. That covenant life God reflects in Jesus Christ, His Son, and through His people whom He calls unto Himself and separates them from the fellowship of the world, delivering them from the power and dominion of sin and fills them with His own life, the life of holy consecration and devotion.
Sin has corrupted the home of man. No longer does it reflect the blessings of covenant life. The contrary is true and the modern home of our day attests unmistakably to this fact. There is no unity but divorce. Friendship is supplanted by rebellion, usurpation of authority and the broken home. The home that is built on the foundation of man’s self-interests is destined to destruction and even in the process of its erection can only emit misery to all that are a part of it and to many others who are affected by it.
Covenant young people, you are called of God to manifest the beauties of His holy covenant. This is especially important to remember when you set forth to establish your own home, to marry, to bear children, etc. Father, mother and children form an earthly tri-unity, called into being to reflect in all their living together the glories of the heavenly Trinity. How is it then possible when there is from the very beginning disunity between father and mother and especially if this disunity is of a spiritual nature, a disunity of faith? Before the children are brought into the picture the covenant relation is marred and broken. It may not be so. The Triune God commands it otherwise and you do well to wisely heed that Word in your courtship plans and marriage contemplations.
Remember that the success in building a home is not measured by God by ascertaining the amount of material resources to be found in the mortgage free house in which you live. Life doesn’t consist in the abundance of things one possesses. Neither is success to be gauged by the fact that in the eyes of men you have obtained a really good looking spouse or that outwardly at least the relations in your home are judged by others ( who really do not know) to be peaceful.
Rather, establishing a home involves spiritual values and these are basic because the chief requisite of a true home is that it reflects the covenant life of the Triune God. It demands of husband and wife that they walk with the children God gives them in the way of the truth in humble submission to His will revealed in His Word. It requires diligent effort and, from the viewpoint of the flesh, much sacrifice to instruct and bring up the children in the fear of the Lord. Marriage and the institution of the home are not existent for the pleasure and convenience of man but must be subservient to the service of the living, covenant, triune God Who, in His Word, instructs us in this incontrovertible truth:
“The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked…but He blesseth the habitation of the just” (Proverbs 3:33).
This speech was given by Rev. G. Vanden Berg at the Mass Meeting of Aug. 18, 1967, of the Protestant Reformed Young People’s Convention held in Hull, Iowa.
Delegates, visitors and friends:
I am very grateful to you, for more than one reason, for the privilege and opportunity of addressing you at your twenty-seventh annual convention. In the first place, I say this because of what you are. You are the youth of the church and as such are a rather distinctive audience. I am not just speaking tonight for a group of young people but I am aware that I speak to you as those who represent Christ’s cause and upon whom presently, therefore, will rest the burdens and responsibilities of His Church as it exists in the present world.
In light of this my gratitude is greatly increased by the fact that you have chosen as the theme of your convention: “Soli Deo Gloria.” Whoever is responsible for the selection of this theme is to be commended but we must remember that it is not the theme of the host society or the Federation Board. It is your theme! I am going to presuppose tonight that your presence at this convention is indicative of the fact that you personally subscribe to this theme. It is and must be the theme of the life of each covenant youth and certainly your purpose in this convention must be to serve this theme. If it is not, it were better that you were not here; better that you go home because in the measure you do not promote the idea of your convention theme in all of your activities, you will be contributing to the failure of this convention. Our convention can be said to be successful only insofar as each of us expresses and manifests the glory of our God.
The beauty of this most appropriate theme lies in its thoroughly Biblical character. All of the Word of God, from Genesis through Revelation, is permeated with the idea “Soli Deo Gloria.” Upon the event of the incarnation of God’s Son, the angel from heaven proclaimed it: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace, good-will toward men” (Luke 2:14). All the works of God in creation and providence and redemption have their ultimate purpose in His glory. “The Lord has made all things for Himself . . .” (Prov. 16:4). Soli Deo Gloria! No wonder then that the apostle Paul, after expounding the truth of God to the church of Rome, breaks forth with these words: “For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to Whom be glory forever. Amen.”
Soli Deo Gloria is the heartbeat of the church. It is said that this was the motto of the life of the great Reformer, John Calvin, and it certainly is expressive of Reformation life and doctrine. Each word in this thoroughly Scriptural idea is worthy of and ought to receive special emphasis. The key word is GOD. God is all! All glory is HIS. I recall some twenty-six years ago when our churches, under the sponsorship of the Young Men’s Society of the First Church, began radio broadcasting, that in the very first radio address the late Rev. H. Hoeksema selected as his theme: “GOD IS GOD.” He stressed the truth that God is ALL. There is none beside Him. None can be compared to Him. No one else has any honor or glory. To none other may it be ascribed. GOD, and He alone, is ALL.
Let it suffice to say that as far as the term “Gloria” is concerned, we must understand that we are speaking of something that is absolute and in no sense partial We come back to this presently but remember that when we ascribe glory to God, that glory is inclusive of all glory that ever was, is now and ever shall be. And this same basic idea is further emphasized in the word “Soli” which may not be overlooked.
This theme is taken from the text of 1 Peter 5:11. It is part of the closing doxology but it is not the first and only time Peter mentioned it in his letter. It is found also in chapter 4:11 where the saints are enjoined to use their spiritual gifts “that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to Whom be praise and dominion forever and ever.” Tonight I will briefly direct your attention to the Idea of this doxology. And I will consider with you three things: (1) Its Meaning, (2) Its Object and (3) Its Significance.
1. Its Idea:
We are concerned tonight with the glory of God. Let us, at the very outset, make clear that in dealing with this subject we are not treating some physical or material substance that we can touch, taste, see or hear with our natural senses. What is more, the glory of God may never be construed as something that we are supposed to form or create and bring to God as though something that we in some way add to Him makes Him glorious. This can never be. Anything that we do or anything that we bring can only detract from His glory and so we must completely discard this notion in order that we may see His glory as it really is and He reveals it.
The glory of God then is that which belongs to the very essence or being of God Himself. HE IS from all eternity unto all eternity the unchangable and all glorious God. It is not that He ought to be or that He sometime shall be made glorious but rather the truth is that nothing can ever detract from, alter or destroy the glory of God because glory is synonymous with God Himself. He IS glory! He is All-Glorious! All glory is His alone!
Now we also know that Scripture speaks of glory in the plural as well as in the singular and that it also attributes glory to various creatures. It speaks, for example, of tile glory of the sun, of the moon, the stars, of man who is made in God’s image and crowned with glory and honor, but we must remember that also this glory is not the creatures but the Creator’s! There is no glory anywhere apart from God. The glory of the Almighty God is reflected in the sun, moon and stars as “the heavens declare His glory and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). Likewise with all God’s creatures, including man, and all of it remains God’s alone and apart from Him there is no glory at all. It is exactly the folly of man that he strives to establish a “glorious” society and to “glorify” himself in that society without God. But this, his folly is also his min. Soli Deo Gloria.
We may describe the glory of God by relating it to two other terms that are frequently used in connection with it in the Word of God. These are the terms: praise and honor. Distinguishing them we may say that glory is the manifestation of that which is virtuous; honor is the acknowledgement or recognition of glory; and, praise is the expression of that recognition. Specifically, the glory of God is the manifestation of all His infinite perfections. When we are given to recognize these virtues; to see Him in the beauty of His own self-revelation, we acknowledge that He is good and we honor Him. Then we break forth to tell of His glory and this telling constitutes our praise. Hence, we see that all that is in God is glorious because He is the God of all virtue. He is good and there is none beside Him. His magnificence, His excellency, His preeminence, sovereignty, dignity, etc. are His glory.
2. Its Object:
When you then say, “Soli Deo Gloria” it is important that you not only realize that you are speaking about the manifestation of virtue but that you have in mind the virtues of GOD. Your theme demands the introduction of a second, closely related principle which is expressed in the words, “Sola Scriptura,” which means, “Only Scripture.” This is because in your doxology you are ascribing glory alone to God but at the same time we must be positively sure that we mean the God of Scripture. If we make our own god, fashioned after our own minds, made as we want him to be, the result is that we do not have a God Who is alone glorious and Whose is all glory. Our theme simply has no application whatsoever to the god of Arminianism and Modernism. To ascribe our theme to the vanities of our religious world is to make of it a most blatant lie. Any god that is equal to or inferior to the creature is not a glorious God. The idols of human philosophy have no glory and even the fact that millions bow before them does not make them glorious.
The true and living God to Whom is all glory forever and ever is revealed to us in the Scriptures. The Scriptures tell us Who and What He is and only as we are able, by His grace, to see Him in the light of His own Word and to believe on Him can we participate in the theme of our convention in truth. And although those Scripture reveal far more about Him than we can speak about tonight, I am going to mention three things about God that we must maintain without compromise. The denial of these truths is implicitly a denial of our theme.
First, Scripture informs us that the all-glorious God is the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth and all that they contain. That GOD is alone glorious. Discard all of those theories of evolution that try to explain the origin of things apart from God and also those theories that speak of a god but deny His omnipotence, wisdom and sovereignty. Deny the claims of science and philosophy so-called. Hold to the Word of God and confess, “I believe in God, the Father, Almighty Maker of heaven and earth . . .
In the second place, this all-glorious God is the sovereign sustainer, preserver and governor of all things. He made all things with a purpose and He controls and directs all things unto the realization of that purpose — His glory! Even the wicked unto the day of evil are made to serve that purpose. And don’t forget that in His wise providence, God makes war and peace, famine and prosperity, death and life, sickness and health, etc. He does all these things. Be still and know that He is God, o’er all exalted high. Don’t criticize Him when He does things that are not to your liking. All things are His and He does with them all as He pleases and in all He does, “Soli Deo Gloria.”
Finally, remember that in the verse preceding the one from which the theme was taken, He is called the God of all grace. In grace He calls His church into His own eternal glory through Jesus Christ. This is the central, highest revelation of His glory. All things in heaven and earth converge in the purpose of His grace, the realization of His everlasting covenant with His people in Christ. And in that grace is included really all His virtues. In Christ we see not only the glory of His love but also the glory of His justice. We see election but also reprobation. We see the merciful kindness of God but also the righteous wrath of the Holy One. “Soli Deo Gloria” to Him and to Him alone!
In speaking now of the significance of all this, we do not have in mind the significance of the fact itself that “Glory is alone God’s.” From what has already been said this ought to be evident. It lies simply in the fact that GOD IS ALL and man is nothing. This is true in all things. His Name is to be honored, praised, magnified, memorialized unto all eternity and no other name may be compared or likened to His. This is especially true in the matter of salvation. That is from God and from God alone. No flesh can, may or ever shall glory in His presence. All that we are we owe to Thee. Saved by grace . . . and that not of self, it is the gift of God.
But we have in mind especially now the significance of our expressing this in this doxology, in our confession, in our life. Another speaker will elaborate on this and so I will just mention two things here. First, this is significant because the very expression of the glory of God in us, the desire to declare it and manifest it in our personal lives, our societies, our convention, is evidence that God has called us into His glory and that we are partakers of His salvation. Apart from that grace man does all he can to hide and to destroy every evidence of God’s glory. Just look at the world in which you live today to see the proof of this. But when He calls us into His glory, establishes with us His covenant, this is different Then we crucify our old nature and walk in a new and holy life, showing forth the praise of His glory in all that we do.
And finally, confessing His glory, we have a source of constant comfort and strength in every trial, tribulation and affliction that we may be called to experience in this present world. We know that also these things He works for our good that in the day of Christ our faith may be found to the praise of His glory. And so, I will close with the following quotation:
“He blesses them with all spiritual and heavenly blessings. What can he want, all whose need the God of grace, of all grace, promises to supply, according to His glorious riches?” He can, He will, fit for the combat; He can, He will sustain during the conflict; He can, He will, make victorious in the conflict; He can, He will, reward after the conflict. If there be any necessary blessing not included in all grace, then the struggling Christian might have some cause to despond but when Jehovah, God Almighty (rather all-sufficient) says, I am the God of all grace, and ‘my grace is sufficient for thee,’ well may he glory in tribulation, count it all joy to be brought into manifold temptations, and sing with the apostle, I have all, and abound: having nothing. I possess all things: I am complete in Him. Most gladly will I glory in my infirmities, that the power of the God of all grace may rest on me; though troubled on every side, I am not distressed: though perplexed, I am not in despair; though persecuted, I am not forsaken; though cast down, I am not destroyed. The God of all grace has pledged His Word ;and oath to me that I shall want no good thing; and what would I have, what could I have more?” (J. Brown. Comm, on 1 Peter)
To the south and west of the city of Chicago lies the village of Oak Lawn, a suburb which, during the past fifteen years, has more than tripled in area and increased in population from 3,300 to its present 47,000. Within the heart of this village we find a small Protestant Reformed congregation that was organized as early as 1927.
The members of this congregation have for decades realized the importance and necessity of Christian education. Almost from the beginning a society was formed to promote this cause. For years the society met in conjunction with or immediately after the meetings of the Men’s Society and at that time their main concern dealt with finances which had to be collected so that the children could attend the Christian School. Later on this society broadened its activities and became a study-society that devoted itself particularly to the study of the principles of Christian education. Out of this was born the desire to realize Protestant Reformed education for our children and again the society acted, approaching the consistories of the local churches with the request that action be taken to provide “good Christian school” in accord with Art. 21 of the Church Order. Resulting from this action was the organization of the “Association for P.R. Education” in South Holland and the establishment of the school there in 1961.
Just two years after circumstances arose that called the Oak Lawn Society into action once more. Parents in Oak Lawn Society were aggrieved and refused to have a part in the actions of removing form the school a faithful teacher who had given “thorough Protestant Reformed instruction to the children”. When attempts to discuss the issues involved and resolve this trouble were met with rebuff, the Society decided to work toward a Protestant Reformed Christian School in Oak Lawn. Books, desks and other needed supplies were readily obtained. Mr. H. W. Kuiper and Miss H. J. Kuiper consented to teach for us and, the one problem that remained was the procural of a physical plant. Several places were investigated. Some were adequate, others not. Rentals in this area are high and in many instances prohibitively so. Our committee continued its search until just ten days before school was to open, the Lord, in a most unexpected way, provided our present facilities in the annex of the Trinity Lutheran Church which the Public School system had used previously. In addition to two large classrooms we have access to a large gymnasium like room which is used on days of inclement weather.
On the school’s opening day a brief convocational exercise was held, attended by students and parents. Undersigned spoke on the words of Psalm 11:3 “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?”, after which the students retired to their classrooms to begin the task of learning. In addition to their daily work, the students, together with the faculty, publish a monthly booklet. The Resume, which is available to anyone desiring it and at the end of the year the Annual called The Spectrum is prepared and published through a staff consisting of students from the upper grades.
For two years our school has operated smoothly and efficiently in the task of “training the child in the way he must go.” In lucid evidence is the ability of our faculty members to inculcate the Protestant Reformed way of life into the entire curriculum and in the achievement of this objective our labors are abundantly rewarded. Our twenty-six students labor with varying abilities in their assigned tasks. After each six-week marking period conferences are held between the parents and teachers at which the progress of each individual child is reviewed. Our Board, consisting of six men, meets once each month and with the advice of our Administrator, decides on those matters that are necessary for the well-being of the school.
Our history would not be complete without the expression of our deep felt gratitude to our Covenant God for His constant care and goodness to us and by which our labor is made possible. Although at times our labor is disheartening, He is faithful to sustain us and to strengthen us in that blessed privilege and calling to instruct and train the seed of His Covenant to the end that “the man of God may be thoroughly furnished unto every good work”. The strength of our educational institutions lies in the attainment of that purpose and in this we confess our complete and constant dependence on Him Who by “weakest means fulfills His will”.
May I have a few lines in Beacon Light’s Open Forum to comment briefly on two articles appearing in the August-September issue?
The first article is entitled “Sober Discernment”, written by Rev. H. Veldman. Without indulging in the discussion of the subject matter of this article and refraining from commenting on the article in totol, I direct attention to the final sentence of the article which reads: “We must always be careful, especially when we instruct the youth.”
With the statement we have no quarrel. Its truth is axiomatic. For emphasis we would underscore the word “always”. And the reader will understand that we do not here contradict the truth of Scripture found in Philippians 4:6 for “carefulness” does not in this writing have the connotation of “anxiety” as it does in the aforementioned text.
Carefulness is a virtue. Its opposite is carelessness, a vice. It denotes “attentiveness to support and protect” (Webster) and involves “watchfulness, cautiousness” (Thorndike). I deplore the lack of appreciable evidence of this carefulness in the article mentioned. In publicly criticizing another’s writings, is it carefulness to inject into a brother’s writing foreign issues? Is it carefulness to discredit another’s writing by setting up straw men and then knocking them down? Is it carefulness to neglect the brother’s objective writing and then proceed to attack on the basis of one’s own “fears”? (suspicions)
Such practices are not conducive to sound journalism and neither can this be characterized as “sober discernment”.
The second article to which I have reference is that of Mr. J. Kalsbeek on “The Convention in Retrospect”. I refer particularly to the brother’s description on page 6 of that which, in his judgment, caused the 1964 Convention to “sadly miss its goal” and further causes him to question the propriety of future conventions. I believe Mr. Kalsbeek has soberly discerned our youth’s behavior in the last convention and is to be commended for the courage of his expression in sounding a much needed warning to the present generation. The brother evinces a sound sense of values that is sorely obscure in our times. What he writes gives cause for alarm and brings a great heaviness and deep sorrow to the heart. However, we cannot escape the pains of that sorrow by ignoring reality.
We must face the facts which briefly are these:
(1) Our doctrine is priceless. Our heritage of truth is glorious. We are unable to limit or define the value of the treasures committed to our trust and embodied in the phrase: “The Sovereignty of God”.
(2) History is replete with warnings and examples of the truth that this heritage is unconditionally preserved for us and our generations only in the way of faithful adherence in life and confession to the responsibilities endowed upon us by virtue of this trust. Failure marks backsliding and apostasy and is indicative of a lack of grace sorely needed. Faithfulness is the product of grace that evinces true gratitude for and zealous devotion to the Lord’s heritage. Its manifestation confirms Divine favor and then all is well, notwithstanding the evidence of temporal things. We cannot then manifest in our living the spirit of “pleasure mindedness, worldly mindedness, materialism, etc.” and expect the continuance of THE TRUTH in our midst. We must be sober, watchful, spiritually consecrated and vigilant unto every good work, seeking the things that are above and put God’s Cause first, last and all the way between.
(3) Pulpit and periodical must unceasingly not only expound the truths of our heritage for our instruction, but also continuously emit the clarion call to repentance, to turn, as Mr. Kalsbeek put it, “from all outward appearance, from materialism to spiritualism”. And the Word must be implemented with the discipline instituted by Christ Himself for the salvation of His people.
I write these words on Reformation Day. May the spirit of true reformation rekindle our hearts, as parents, as youth and children, dispelling all apathy and re-consecrating us to the untiring service of God’s Cause and Kingdom.
Deliverance Through Judgment:
III. Destruction by Water (Chapter 7)
The first part of this chapter (vss. 1-10) records the final instructions of God to Noah just a week before the flood came. Again, the obedience of Noah is marked (vs. 5) as he brought into the ark those appointed unto salvation and so all things were ready for the judgment to come.
Our attention in this chapter is to be directed mainly to the flood as the judgment of God by which the wicked world was destroyed by water. We cannot treat this in detail but will note a few of the main points.
Our starting point we may take from II Peter 3:5-7 so that we are mindful that this judgment is a type of the final judgment of the world. This is also suggested in Christ’s words in Matt. 24:37. Hence, the outstanding feature of the judgment of the flood is that it is universal, i.e., its destruction included the whole world and from it there was no escape. “The rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights” (vs. 12) Forty is a symbolic number. It is four times ten. Four symbolizes the earth and ten denotes completeness of anything as determined by the counsel of God. Forty then represents the full measure of the outpouring of the wrath of God upon the earth. God destroyed the world utterly.
The judgment of the flood was a divine wonder. This was no ordinary rain. Verse 11 tells us “all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.” We take this in a sense figuratively but the meaning is obvious. There was a universal upheaval, catastrophe resulting not simply in great water-damage but in radical, structural change in the very earth itself. Many of the so-called problems of science can be answered if this aspect of the judgment of God in the flood be remembered. A divine wonder too, that the ark is preserved in such a storm. Which of our modern ocean liners could survive it? Lenski says, “ . . . these mighty waters did actually prove themselves ‘mighty’. What power behind raging, surging waters! On the one hand, how God’s power in keeping the ark amid such dangers stands out the more distinctly! On the other hand, what opportunity for working vast geologic changes lie dormant in these ‘mighty’ waters! The native force of gabhar is enhanced by one me’odh, ‘exceedingly’ in v. I8 and by doubling of the same adverb — a Hebrew superlative — in v. I9). When will geologists begin to notice these basic facts?”
Verses 19-24 stress the fact that destruction was total and universal. The waters rose “fifteen cubits upward,” i.e., approximately twenty-five feet above the highest mountain. We do not picture people and animals attempting to climb these mountains to escape. This was impossible. The destruction came with such rapidity as to disallow this. GOD is judge and terrible as it is to fall into His hands, there is no escape.
To be noted yet is the fact that the very element (water) by which the church is saved (I Peter 3:20) is the element that destroys the world. Even so is the church now tried and purified as it were by fire and so shall the world perish.
- Salvation in the Ark (Chapter 8:1-19)
In this passage, we are told how Noah and the other occupants in the ark spent the year and ten days that the flood waters prevailed and the earth was again made ready to be inhabited. The details are meager. Questions of curiosity remain unanswered. Most important is the fact that God saved and preserved them in the ark.
Here we may consider the truth that the ark is the symbol of Christ. True, 1 Peter 3:20 tells us Noah was saved “by water” but “in the ark.” The water, symbolizing the flood of Divine wrath, destroyed the wicked and by it the church was saved. The ark, which is Christ, was in the midst of those waters but not destroyed. Christ was engulfed by the wrath of God against our sins but He did not perish, He died but also rose again. A beautiful picture directing us to the reality of our salvation in Christ.
When Noah, etc. entered the ark “God shut him in.” (11:16) This means not only that when God shut the door no one else could possibly get into that ark but also that those who were in could not again get out. God seals His people in Christ and none of them shall perish. “The foundation of the Lord standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are His.” (II Tim. 2:19)
A key expression in this passage is found in verse 1, “And God remembered Noah …” This cannot be interpreted to imply that there was a time prior to this that God had forgotten him. This is certainly not true. Rather it points to the fact that the remembrance of God is the deepest reason for their preservation and salvation. In this remembrance, God warned Noah, instructed Noah, strengthened him during the hundred twenty years while the ark was prepared, brought him into the ark and delivered him through the flood. If only God remembers us, we need not fear. His remembrance is our salvation for he works all things to our good.
That Noah sent out a raven and dove is of significance only as means of determining to what extent the waters of the food had abated. We attach no symbolical meaning to this as, for example, that the dove here represents the Spirit, etc. Neither is this a sign of impatience or unwillingness on Noah’s part to await God’s time when he will be let out of the ark. This is only a natural sequence of events.
- Post-deluvian Worship (Chapter 8:20-22)
With Noah, his family, and every living creature God had established His covenant. This was not a general covenant of nature but the covenant of grace as established with the church and realized in Christ. Further discussion of this may be taken up in connection with chapter 9.
The church then, represented in the family of Noah, is led from the ark and the first thing they do is an act of worship. “Noah builds an altar unto the Lord” and offers a sacrifice. This sacrificial act is first of all an expression of gratitude for the wonderful deliverance wrought. In it is also a confession of sin and an acknowledgement of unworthiness of all this. Certainly, Noah knew and felt that he did not deserve this. This is expressed by the “bloody sacrifice.”
God’s response to this sacrifice of Noah. Verse 21 says the “Lord smelled a sweet savour.” The sacrifice was pleasing to Him. Immediately God says that He will not again curse the ground or smite every living creature as He had done. There would be no more flood such as this. This determination of God is not prompted by the fact that man is no more evil and that the thoughts of his heart are now good. The contrary is the case. But the point is first of all that God will not again destroy the world temporarily as He did in Noah’s time. The next destruction will be permanent and final. Then, too, this will not again be by water but at the end of time the Lord will consume the world by the fire of His wrath. Till then He will maintain the ordinances of His creation for the sake of His Church. That church which He loves eternally in Christ He delivers through judgment that they may show forth the praise of His wonderful grace with abiding sacrifices of thanksgiving.
Deliverance Through Judgment
- The Pre-deluvian Conditions Genesis 6:1-8
These verses relate the amazing truth concerning the total depravity of man and the rapid development of sin during the first sixteen hundred and fifty years. Contrary to the notion contained in the common grace theory that God restrains sin in the unregenerate, this passage demonstrates the truth that sin develops organically and with such rapidity that the entire world became ripe for judgment just a little over seven hundred years after Adam died. Various reasons for this rapid development are given here and may serve as salient points for discussion.
In verses 1 and 2 mention is made of the multiplication of men on the earth and the fact that there were mixed marriages between the “sons of God and daughters of men”. This multiplication of men was not sinful but was in accord with the command of God but, men being sinners, their numerical increase gave occasion for wider and more varied sin. Ten sinners perpetrate more sin than one, etc. Is it always true that the larger any organization of wicked men becomes, the more corrupt it also is? Take, for example, labor unions today! What about the time when the whole world will be united under anti-Christ, the man of sin?
These same verses speak of the intermarriage of the “sons of God and the daughters of men.” This is the second contributing factor in the rapid development of sin. It has reference to the intermarriage of the church and world, a reality that does not contribute to the moral and spiritual elevation of the world but rather results in the degeneration of the church. The “sons of God” represent the children of Seth who chose to marry the “daughters of men”, i.e., the children of Cain. They did so because they saw that the latter were “fair.” Lenski says, “of pretty faces and shapely forms.” Losing sight of basic distinctions, disregarding moral virtues in the selection of wife or husband are certain evidences of an advanced degeneracy.
To be rejected for obvious reasons are the views based on heathen legend and mythology that claims that the contrast between “sons of God” and daughters of men” demands that the former be divine and the latter human. Procksch simply offers the superscription, “The Marriage with Angels,” for this section. Meek translates, “the gods noticed that the daughters of men were attractive: so they married those whom they liked best.” Lcnski replies: “Such an approach introduces the mythological element as well as polytheism into the Scriptures and makes the Bible a record of strange and fantastic tales and contradicts the passage of Matt. 22:30: ‘For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are as angels in heaven.’ For the expression used here (vs 2) ‘they took to themselves wives,’ is a standing expression for marital union. This verse does not refer to adulterous irregularities but to permanent union.”
The third factor contributing to the rapid development of sin is the “contending of the Spirit of God with man” (vs. 3) This is not to be understood as though God was striving with man to restrain him, to check his sinning and even to convert him. It is no common grace struggle in which God loses and man wins. Rather, to strive means “to testify against, to judge and to condemn.” This God, by His Spirit, did in and through the prophets such as Enoch, Seth and Noah. But this would not continue forever. It would come to an end. This testimony had an effect upon the wicked. It hardened them in their iniquity. It was to them a savor of death unto death. Through this testimony of the Spirit their sin became the greater and it brought them closer to the final judgment.
In close connection with this must be mentioned the pre-deluvian persecutions. Though not specifically mentioned, this was the reaction of the wicked world to the “striving of the Spirit of God.” (Cf. Jude 14-16) Consider in this connection the murder of Abel by Cain, Lamech and his boasts (Gen. 4:23), Enoch’s translation. This also explains why the church numbered only eight souls at the time of the flood.
Finally, sin developed rapidly because “there were giants in those days in the earth.” (vs. 4) These were “mighty men, men of renown.” These were great men in more than one sense of the word. Physically and intellectually giants. Men of great worldly achievement. Think of Jabel, Jubal, Tubal-Cain. These were giants in industry, art, culture, etc. The Hebrew here has “Nephilim.” One meaning of this verb is to “fall upon, to attack.” This verb could readily yield this noun in the sense of “attackers, robbers, bandits.” So, you have the thought: the descendants of the godly patriarchs abandoned their spiritual heritage, God was moved to determine their destitution, and there were also violent attackers and robbers abroad in those days. Luther describes them as “tyrants.” They received a reputation the world over by their violence, but a reputation better deserving of the term notoriety. The world in those days, as now, did not esteem godly men highly. Only the wicked had a name.
Three things arrest our attention at the close of this passage. First, there is the statement of vs. 5 describing the totality of the depravity of the nature of man. This cannot be taken as applying only to the men of that day. This is descriptive of man as fallen in Adam. He is incapable of doing any good and inclined to all evil. “Every imagination of the thought of his heart is only evil continually.” Discuss this truth of depravity in relation to the claims of the common grace theory in this regard! Also, confer with the Confessions on this matter!
Secondly, mention is made here of “God’s repentance” and His determination to destroy man and beast from the earth. The repentance of God does not involve a change in God for He is immutable. See Jer. 26:19, Duet. 32:36, Ps. 106:45, etc. and then discuss the meaning of this repentance.
Thirdly, the contrast: “But Noah found grace.” We notice that Noah did not “earn” this grace. Neither was Noah “perfect” and this being the reason God favored Him. But he “found grace.” God had chosen him to comfort His people and through him the church was to be delivered out of the hands of its enemies. This is the sovereign purpose of God’s grace.
- Preparations for the Flood (Ch. 6:9-22)
Verses 9-14 describe the actual pre- deluvian conditions in the world. On the one hand, there was Noah and his three sons. Noah was “a just man and perfect in his generations.” This is not moral perfection but denotes that principally he lived in the fear of God with his children and held before them the precepts of the Lord which he himself honored. Noah was completely justified before God. This justification is of grace. The expression connotes a life of true faith and sincere consecration. In contrast to Noah was the rest of humanity which had corrupted its way upon the earth, (vs. 12) The earth was corrupt and filled with violence, (vs. 11) These verses describe the form of moral corruption prevalent in the earth. The Hebrew “Chamas” (violence) means “high handed dealings, violation of all right.” Men did as they pleased, despising God’s law and corrupting all human relations. All this God saw. Indeed, the earth was in so short a time ready to be judged.
In considering the instruction given to Noah concerning the building of the ark (vs. 14-22), it must be noted that in the minutest detail these instructions are of the Lord. This applies later to the building of the temple which plan was also wholly of God. Of significance, this is because these things point to the plan of salvation which in its origin, detail and execution is of God alone. In the heart of man such a plan could not arise. Who could see the wisdom
and purpose of building such an ark upon an earth where it had never as much as rained? To carry out this plan would occasion only the mockery, reproach and ridicule of evil men. This Noah experienced as he “did according to all that God commanded him,” preaching righteousness, condemning the world and built an ark to the saving of his house.
To be noticed in these instructions God gave to Noah is that God not only gave detail concerning the actual construction of the ark but also made detailed provision for the preservation of those to be saved in the ark. (vss. 19-21) God not only saves His people but He preserves them in the way of that salvation to the very end.
Concerning the plan of the ark we quote from Rev. H. Veldman: “The entire plan is of the Lord. This is true of the ark. All the details relative to this strange ship are given Noah by the Lord. A cubit is approximately one and a half feet. What is meant by gopher wood cannot be stated exactly. A probable explanation is that such a boat was made of interwoven willow branches and palm leaves with a coating of bitumen (asphalt) outside, used today on the rivers and canals of Mesopotamia. The ark had three stories, with a window in the upper story. Verses 16 does not mean that this “window” (light in Hebrew) would be only a cubit square, but within a cubit of the edge of the roof; this “window” refers to a space for light, and in which the window, or lattice for opening and shutting could be fixed; we do not know the detailed arrangement.”
Verse 22 emphasizes Noah’s obedience. Obedience is the crown and chief evidence of faith. Consider what James writes about this obedience or working of faith. (James 2:18 (f.) In obedience of faith Noah walked with God and all things were made ready for the impending judgment and the deliverance of the church.
“Never marry but for love; but see that thou loves what is lovely”. W.Penn
“Mothers, who force their daughters into interested marriage are worse than the Ammonites, who sacrificed their children to Molech, – the latter undergoing a speedy death; the former suffering years of torture, but too frequently leading to the same result.” Rochester
“As the Lord commanded that an ox and an ass should not be yoked together, because the match is unequal; even so it is an unlawful thing for the faithful to marry with infidels or to have anything to do with them.” Cawdray
“And I will make thee swear by the Lord…that thou shalt not a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites…. Genesis 24:3
MIXED MARRIAGES – A BROAD CONCEPT!
In general a marriage may be said to be “mixed” when there are differences of race, social background or religious creed between the parties involved. Our present interest is limited to the religious differences in mixed marriages because these differences create a most serious problem in our youth, their parents and the church.
LIMITING THE PROBLEM!
Religious differences in marriage stem from three kinds of relationships. There is first of all, the marriage of a child of God to an unbeliever. The real problem here must be found in the fact that such marriage is contracted indirect conflict with the Word of God. Already in the Old Testament marriage with the heathen nations were strictly forbidden. (Deuteronomy 7:3) In the New Testament the exhortation “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers” is certainly applicable to marriage and the fact that under the above circumstances it is impossible to “marry in the Lord” (1Corithians 7: 39 ) ought to be clearly understood by all. The solution then to the problems arising out of such marriage unions is not to be found in an attempt to patch up what is basically evil. This malady is incurable. What is needed in such cases is an extra large dosage of preventive medicine.
In the second place, we speak of the marriage of a Protestant and a Roman Catholic, as mixed. Such it is. Religious tensions are inevitable in such a union because the differences of faith are very great and of fundamental importance. Compromising positions are not solution in these cases for the Roman Catholic Church allows no compromise. Their position is that “the marriage must be solemnized by a priest and the Protestant must sign an ante nuptial agreement permitting his or her children to be educated in the Catholic faith, giving the Catholic partner free exercise of religion, and abiding by the Roman Catholic regulations with respect to birth control.” If Protestants would maintain as firm a position, there would be no problem because such intermarriage would be virtually impossible. Certainly no Protestant Reformed youth may submit to the above described conditions of marriage. To do so is to sin against God, the church and one’s own conscience.
More serious, however, and of immediate concern in this connection, are those difficulties that stem from inter-faith and inter-denominational marriages among Protestants of different kind. The tendency here is to be generalize the religious differences that exist and to minimize their importance. As a result of this these differences are not seriously considered before marriage. The fantasy that these difficulties will immediately dissipate after marriage only leaves the parties involved in the throes of a perpetual conflict that offers no simple solution. Construction is begun on a home that is foolishly being erected on a divided foundation. Misery and heartache fill the day. Tears are shed to no avail for these cannot wash away the deep rooted differences that exist here. Children are born of these marriages and the situation grows increasingly worse. It seems that the only practiced solution is that one party “gives in”. If young people only realized what all is involved in such marriages, they would undoubtedly heed the “stop, look and listen” before plunging headlong into this state. The avoidance or prevention of these unhappy situations is our immediate concern.
A REAL PROBLEM
We do not mean to shrug off or to minimize the real problem here. On the one hand it is simply a fact that for many of our young people marriage is made virtually impossible unless they marry outside of their own church. On the other hand, it is also indisputable that some marriages of persons within the same church end in anything except true happiness while in other cases one may marry another outside of their church with real success. In this light we would be guilty of oversimplifying this problem of youth if we advocated the ban of all inter-denominational marriages. This cannot be done. Rather we must face the problem realistically and offer a few suggestions that many help prevent some of the more unpleasant consequences of these “mixed marriages”.
We believe that, firstly, parents will have to assume a more direct responsibility in this regard. We do not mean we must turn back history’s page to the time when parents selected
mates for their children, but we do mean that parents must be alerted to their responsibility to see to it that their children attain spiritual maturity by that time they begin to evidence marital interests. This is fundamentally important. A young man must be guided by spiritual considerations in the selection of his mate and if, therefore, his spiritual development is neglected throughout his early life, he will reach the years of adolescence without that essential qualification and proceed to look for a mate while being guided only by physical and other secondary considerations. Likewise a young who lacks spiritual maturity is easily carried away by the “wrong man”. Preparation for marriage must begin long before the date and plans for the wedding are set. In this preparation parents must plan a vital role.
We believe, too, that young people especially must be made to understand that matters of faith and confession are more important than marriage. The latter must serve the former. Marriage ultimately has its purpose in God. That is why marriage must always be “in the Lord” and “for God’s sake”. If this is kept in mind. It will be clear that we may never forsake the truth for sake of marriage. A perpetual state of spiritual adultery and apostasy from God is not justified by the establishing of an earthly marriage state that conforms only to external requirements set up by man. The Lord’s blessing will not rest there. If marriage is a threat to your faith, it is better you did not marry. It is better to enjoy the Lord’s blessing in the unmarried state than to taste His displeasure while you live in a state of marriage that is contrary to His revealed will.
Finally then, this means that where the possibility of these mixed marriages exists, the parties concerned must face and resolve these problems before marriage. It is not simply a question of who is going to give in or of the one going along to the other’s church for the sake of getting a husband or wife or to maintain fully, peace after the marriage. Those are practical considerations but they do not touch the heart of the problem. Settle the differences before marriage because it is really a matter of doctrine and life and this is much deeper than church membership. It involves the question whether two people are really able to live together in the covenant of marriage. To do so there must be an inner, deeper, essential, spiritual agreement or unity out of which love flows upon that love along marriage can be based. Only when you and your wife or husband love the same God, the same truth, the same Christ, can you build a future together upon a foundation that will stand. Then you will love the same church that preaches and maintains the doctrines of your faith, and your problem of “mixed” marriage will be resolved.
The caption of this article refers to the brief but lucid story of Demas recorded in II Timothy 4:10.
The brevity of the story is such that we can relate it unabbreviated on this page. It reads like this: “For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica.”
The clarity of this story is seen not so much in the facts as such but rather in its repetitious character. Writes T. G. New, “Poor Demas was not the last of his tribe. We today seem to have far more forsakers than we do partakers”. Not uncommon is it to find the story rewritten in various forms upon the annals of the church throughout history. Legion is the Demases who “having loved the present world have turned renegade.”
Are you, young people, forsaking or partaking?
Before we attempt to answer this question we should try to see more clearly just what Demas did when he turned forsaker. The story does not say that he left the church but Paul writes that “he hath forsaken me”. He forsook Paul who was a faithful servant of Jesus Christ and an ambassador of the Gospel of salvation. For this reason we may not oversimplify the matter by simply classifying all church-deserters as Demases and further then conclude that all those who remain in the church today are Lukes and Tituses. The mere fact that we remain in the church does not leave us unexposed to and unstained by the sin of Demas.
Demas forsook Paul and in doing so he forsook Christ. Calvin explains, “It was truly base in such a man to prefer the love of this world to Christ. And yet we must not suppose that he altogether denied Christ, or gave himself up either to ungodliness or to the allurements of the world, but he merely preferred his private convenience, or his safety to the life of Paul. He could not have assisted Paul without many troubles and vexations, attended by imminent risk of his life, he was exposed to many reproaches, and must have submitted to many insults, and been constrained to leave off the care of his own affairs. And, therefore, being overcome by his dislike of the cross, he resolved to consult his own interests. Nor can it be doubted, that he enjoyed a propitious gale from the world. That he was one of the leading men may be conjectured on this ground, that Paul mentions him admist a very few (at Col. 4:14) and likewise in the Epistle to Philemon (vs. 24) where also he is ranked among Paul’s assistants, and, therefore, we need not wonder if he censure him so sharply on this occasion, for having cared more about himself than about Christ.”
The story of Demas is a lucid example of Truth vs. Error!
The story contains a might challenge as well as a stern warning to Protestant Reformed Youth! You, among whom Christ dwells in all the glory of the revelation of His truth, are daily exposed to the temptation and danger of turning forsaker instead of partaker. Demas did! Will you?
Firstly, the temptation is real because to remain with me (Paul, the apostle; Christ, the Truth) means that you cannot escape the cross. The reproach of Christ is upon you. You shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake. Men shall persecute you, revile you and say all manner of evil against you falsely. In the world ye shall have tribulation. Remember the word that I (Christ speaking in John 15:20) said unto you, the servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you.
We cannot partake of Christ without all this and if we cannot partake of all this, we shall be forsakers, not partakers. The way is not easy.
Secondly, Demas turned forsaker because he loved the present world. This world with all its opportunities, pleasures, riches and more (many more in the present world than in the world of Demas’ time) is a constant allurement to the flesh. But let us not be mistaken in this. To forsake Christ and the truth does not mean that one is immediately manifest as renegade to the cause of the Truth and wholly given over to the pursuit of the lusts of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life. Demas, in forsaking Paul, undoubtedly did not immediately identify himself with the godless and immoral world. He did not forsake religion but his evil was that he put the things of the world and his flesh first and who does this has no part in the Kingdom of Christ. The story does not tell us in so many words but it is not unlikely that Demas continued to go to church, perhaps on occasion continued to preach (?) and was held in esteem by others in the church who were of the same mind as he, but nevertheless he was forsaker and not partaker.
God is not mocked!
One cannot be partaker and forsaker!
Seek ye first the Kingdom of God.
Not self, not individualistic interests, not money and pleasure and all that pleases my flesh but Christ, His Church, His Word, the running of the race, the fighting of the battle, the striving toward the mark of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, the faithful and diligent use of every opportunity to grow in the knowledge of the truth – these things are first!
Forsakers desert them.
Partakers pursue them.
Which are you!
Should we not attempt to apply the thought of our article to the particular circumstances of young people for whom these lines are primarily written, our article would become too long. Suffice it to write that each of us will have to do this for himself. Nor is this difficult. Let us pause to reflect upon the question: “where are my interests? What captivates my first love?” Do we have so many interests in the world of pleasure, business, sports, etc. that we sun our duty to study the Word of God or perhaps even neglect our place and calling in the societies of the church giving as an excuse that we are too busy?
Love not this world nor the things of this world but set your affections on things above!
T. New said: “We are living in an age when the world is condoned rather than being condemned. Let us not b a Demas, but be like unto Paul, not forsaking Christ, but always forging ahead with Christ. Those who quit Christ here will never sit with Him there.”
And again he said: “Those who truly know the facts will never think of going back”.
We add to this that the reason for it lies in the unchangeable truth: “Every plant that my heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up” (Matthew 15:13). Those who are not planted by God never truly know the facts. And, “My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me and I give them eternal life and they shall never perish, neither shall nay man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:27, 28). These know the facts for “flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee but my Father which is in heaven.”
Originally Published in:
Vol. 19 No. 7 October-November 1959
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