Calling attention in this article to our personal devotions, we must, of course, first of all turn to the infallible scriptures. After all, these scriptures are a lamp before our feet and a light upon our path. And, what scripture is more appropriate for our purpose than Ps. 119? We read in verse 9: “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to Thy word.” Notice: we must take heed to this cleansing of our way according to God’s word. Then, in verse 15 we read: “I will meditate in Thy precepts, and have respect to Thy ways.” And then we read in verse 24: “Thy testimonies also are my delight and my counsellors.” We should note here that the statutes and testimonies of the Lord and of God’s word are my counsellors. They teach me and I delight in them. And we would also quote II Tim. 3:16 and 17: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” Need we quote anymore?
Our personal devotions. This expression refers to our personal attitude toward, our personal activities with respect to the word of God. I speak to you, young people. O, this can be addressed to all our people, the aged as well as the young, office bearers as well as the laity. We all should examine ourselves in connection with our personal devotions.
These “personal devotions” can also refer to our spiritual exercises and practices in which especially our young people are engaged. This is what Beacon Lights is all about. Indeed, especially our young people. How important and vital they are! It has been said that they are the church of tomorrow. And they are. The question, then, is very important: what characterizes our young people?
Perhaps you have heard that we must allow young people to sow their wild oats. They must have their “fling.” And we should not be too concerned when they engage in questionable activities. After all, we were all young once. And young people should be permitted to engage in these questionable things. However, this attitude, that we must not be too severe when our young people, because they are young people, indulge in these practices, can be very dangerous. After all, the scriptures teach us that we reap what we sow. And this means that when we sow wild oats we will also reap wild oats.
We ask again: what today characterizes our young people? We speak of family devotions. These are spiritual activities in which the family takes part. These activities often take place at meal times, or in the evening. But, young people, do you engage in personal devotions? Do you read the Bible? How important this is! After all, the word of God alone is a lamp before our feet and a light upon our path. It is only in its light that we see light. Apart from the scriptures there is no light, only darkness. The word of God converts the soul, makes wise the simple. Do you take time to read this only source of all light and truth? We read other things. Do you have time and take time to read the written word of God? Do you read the scriptures, especially as young people, as the church as it shall appear in the future, that you may know these scriptures, be familiar with them and feel at home in them? Does this word of God apply to you, as we read it in I John 2:13 and 14: “I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one, I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you and ye have overcome the wicked one.”
Do you read the word of God prayerfully? It is only through prayer that this word of God can be the lamp before your feet and a light upon your path. It is only through prayer that the scriptures can be your guide, leading you through all the troubles and trials of this life. The world is full of temptations. Everything here below is allied against you. Temptations are all around you. Need I speak of drugs, etc? Do you resort to them? do you realize that you cannot overcome all these evils in your own strength? Peter once left his boat to walk to Christ upon the water. As long as his eyes were upon the Christ all went well. But as soon as he took his eye off the Lord he began to sink. You know the story. Do you think you can overcome the evil one in your own strength? How wrong you are! You must read the scriptures, and you must read them prayerfully. The Lord must bless His word to your life and heart and soul. You must recognize the enemy who is determined to destroy you. Indeed, you must be strong, but you can be strong only as in the Lord, through prayer and by the power of His grace. We do well to bear in mind that your enemy is strong, exceedingly clever, and that you are no match for him. And yet you must face him, oppose him, overcome him. This you can do only through the word of God and through prayer.
Do you read Beacon Lights? Yes, I may also ask you: do you read the Standard Bearer? Please do not tell me that you cannot read the Standard Bearer because it is “over your heads.” I dare say that you, young people, are able to read this magazine. Do your parents encourage you to read it? This, too, is important. But, after all Beacon Lights is your magazine. It is written primarily for your sake. The articles in Beacon Lights are prepared and written that you may read them. And I have reasons to fear that in this you fall far short. It does not exactly encourage the writers of this magazine when they fear that their articles are not being read. Do the radio and the television screen draw you away from your personal devotions? Take time to read these articles, digest them, make them part and parcel of your lives. This is your calling, as young people, particularly as young people. If you fail in this, you are misusing a tremendously important part of your life. And this is sin before the face of God.
Do you engage in personal devotions as you prepare for your society meetings and for your catechetical instruction? I have my fears also along this line. I have led society meetings and catechism classes many years. What is my experience? Sad to say, there are young people, many of them, who try to get by with as little as possible. And also here our parents have a solemn duty and obligation. Do these parents know when you leave home to attend these meetings, that you are prepared? It is true, is it not, young people, that when some of you attend your society meetings, you do not even know what will be discussed. Again, do you engage in personal devotions? Do you read your subject material: Do you study it? Are you prepared to come to your meetings with questions? You are covenant people, and you are called of the Lord to prepare yourselves for your place, in the future, in the midst of God’s church and covenant. God created you. The Lord placed you where you are. And it is your calling to understand this very seriously. You are young people only once. You can never retrace your steps, do what has not been done. So, do you participate in the discussion? Indeed, also as young people, make your calling and election sure. Redeem the time because the days are evil. There are so many forces and enemies who would have you waste your time. You cannot afford to do this.
Let us understand our calling. To engage in personal devotions is extremely difficult. It means that you must fight. You must fight an enemy who is all around you and also within you. You cannot fight this battle alone, in your own strength. Be strong, but only in the Lord and in the power of His might. Prepare yourselves for your place in the midst of God’s church and covenant in the midst of the world. Again I say: be strong, but be strong in the Lord.
“Who can sufficiently extol these treasures of the conscience, which everywhere are spread abroad, proclaimed, and presented merely by grace? We are now conquerors of sin, of the law, of death, and of the devil; freed and delivered from all human traditions. If we would but consider the tyranny of auricular confession, one of the least things we have escaped from, we could not show ourselves sufficiently thankful to God for loosing us out of that one snare. When Popedom stood and flourished among us, then every king would willingly have given ten hundred thousand guilders, a prince one hundred thousand, a nobleman one thousand, a gentleman one hundred, a citizen or countryman twenty or ten, to have been freed from that tyranny. But now seeing such freedom is obtained for nothing, by grace, it is not much regarded, neither give we thanks to God for it.” -Martin Luther
In our final article on TULIP we call attention to the letter, P, in TULIP, the perseverance of the saints. We must distinguish between perseverance and preservation. The preservation of the saints refers to a work of God upon the saints. The perseverance of the saints refers to a work of God through the saints. We must be very sure that we explain also this perseverance of God’s people as a work of God. In the perseverance of the saints the people of God are active. They persevere. In the preservation of the saints they are passive. The people of God are preserved. And we must surely understand the relation between them.
How wonderful is the truth of the preservation and perseverance of the saints of God! It is wonderful, first of all, because of that whereunto we are preserved and persevere. This is nothing less than a glory so great that no human heart could or can conceive of it, no eye can see it, etc. – I Cor. 2:9- It is a glory that is heavenly, everlasting, immortal. What tremendous heights fascinate the Christian pilgrim in the midst of the world! Then, it is wonderful, in the second place, because of us who are preserved and persevere! We are sinners; we are by nature hopelessly lost sinners; we are sinners who are holy only in principle; and we are such in principle redeemed sinners who are constantly confronted by overwhelming odds, by an enemy, within and without, with whom we cannot possibly cope or contend. And yet, these impotent and hopelessly lost sinners actually persevere until the end, and attain unto a glory which could never enter the heart of man. And wonderful, in the third place, is this truth because of this preservation and perseverance. God’s people are preserved and they persevere until the very end. They all persevere; none is lost. And, they are all preserved in such a way that not a hair of their heads is singed; none was ever harmed in any sense of the word. They are not only conquerors, but they are more than conquerors. Everything works together for their good.
Both truths are surely scriptural and confessional. Our preservation and perseverance are surely confessional. Our Canons teach the truth of preservation, as in Head V, Articles III and VIII. And the truth of perseverance is taught in Heads III and IV, Articles 16 in Head III and in Articles 12 and 13 in Head V, as well as in V, 2. From Scripture we quote the following, first of all in regards to the truth of preservation. We read in I Cor. 1:8-9 “Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.” Phil. 1:6: Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” I Thess. 5:23: “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We read in I Peter 1:4, 5: “To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you. You are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” And in John 14:16 we read: “And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever.” More passages, of course, can be quoted, but these may be considered sufficient.
The truth of the perseverance of the saints is also held before in Holy Writ. We read in Matt. 24:33: “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” In Rom. 2:7-8 we read: ‘‘To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; But unto them that are contentious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath.” Heb. 3:14: ‘‘For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end.” Heb. 6:11: ‘‘And we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end.” In Rev. 2:10, 26 we read: ‘‘Fear none of these things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. And he that overcometh, and keepeth My works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations.” And finally we read in Rev. 3:11: “Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” To these, too, many passages can be added. But I believe that these may suffice.
The preservation of the saints simply means that God preserves them as saints. They never perish. Their life from God is retained. There is no falling away of saints. Perseverance, too, is a work of God. O, this truth does not mean that we work for Jesus, win the world for Jesus, strive to transform the kingdom of this world into a kingdom of light and of God’s dear Son, make this world a better place in which to live, extend the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ so that it will cover the face of the earth, in the postmillenarian sense of the word. Such is not our calling, either as churches or as individuals. But it does mean that we continue in grace and in the certain salvation unto which the Lord has effectually called us. It means that we hold fast to which we have. It means that we hold fast to Christ’s word, His truth, never departing from the same; always maintain the truth of the infallible scriptures. But it also means that we hold fast to our life from God in Christ Jesus, that we walk in and according to this truth, always living according to it, also antithetically in the midst of the world. It means that we keep our garments unspotted in the world, that we believe the scriptures and live and practice what we believe.
Doctrine and life, the truth and practice are inseparably connected, may never be divorced.
The question is very important how are these concepts, preservation and perseverance, related? Fundamentally, there are only two possibilities. We are either preserved because we persevere or we persevere because we are preserved. Salvation is determined either by the will of God or by the will of man. It is conditional or unconditional. The Arminians teach that we are preserved because we persevere. They claim to maintain that all salvation is by grace, that they also maintain that God will work that grace in a sinner provided that that sinner wills it, and that the sinner wills it even until the end. He therefore, must deny the certain perseverance of the saints and teach a falling away of saints, that saints, once saved, can perish. It is his contention, therefore, that we are preserved because we persevere.
Now we cannot discuss this position of the Arminian in detail. That the scriptures speak of those who have become unfaithful we do not deny. However, the apostle John, in I John 2:19, declares that they went from us because they were not of us, for if they had been of us they would no doubt have continued with us. It is true that the Word of God admonishes us to fight the good fight of faith, to put on the whole armor of God, to labor to enter the rest, to be faithful that no man take our crown. But does this mean that we can do this all of ourselves: Of course not! Does not the Lord God declare emphatically, as in Eph. 2:8-10, that we are saved by grace, through faith, and that this is not of ourselves, but a gift of God, lest any man should boast? It is indeed true that the Christian fighter is assured before he fights that he will win in the struggle, that the crown is sure, that he is more than conqueror. But does this therefore imply that this fighter therefore will not fight, as the Arminian claims that this must follow because the fighter is assured of victory already at the beginning of the struggle? This is unadulterated nonsense. This alone gives him the strength to fight.
Indeed, we persevere because we are preserved. First, we are preserved because of divine election. This we read in Eph. 1: 3-4 and Rom. 8:29-30. Secondly, we are preserved because of Christ’s particular atonement, and as we read in John 6:39; 10:15; 6:37, 40; 10:28. Thirdly, this preservation is assured because of the Holy Spirit Who will abide with us and in us forever, as we read in John 14:16. Notice, too, that we read in I Cor. 10:13; I Cor 1:9; Phil. 1:6; I Thess. 5:23; I Peter 1:4-5.
Because we are preserved we do and must persevere. How true is what we read in Rom. 8:35-39. Indeed, we must persevere. That is our calling. We must fight the good fight of faith, and this we must do even unto the very end. However, we shall also persevere. Indeed, nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. We persevere because we are preserved. Now we may be sure that the work which God has once begun will be finished until the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. May we ever hold fast to this reformed, Calvinistic view that is rooted in the Word of God. And may we live accordingly.
The truth of God’s irresistible grace is represented by the fourth letter, “I”, of the word TULIP. That the grace of God is irresistible follows, inexorably, from the truths of God’s sovereign predestination, limited or particular atonement and total and absolute depravity, even as it is just as true that the Armenians must conclude that this grace is resistible. Let us at this time quote the fourth point of the Remonstrance, one of the five points of doctrine drawn up by the Armenians in 1610. We quote: “That this grace of God is the beginning, continuance, and accomplishment of all good, even to this extent, that the regenerate man himself, without prevention or assisting, awakening, following and co-operative grace, can neither think, will, nor do good, nor withstand any temptation to evil; so that good deeds or movements, that can be conceived, must be ascribed to the grace of God in Christ. But, as respects the mode of the operation of this grace, it is not irresistible, in as much as it is written concerning many, that they have resisted the Holy Ghost. Acts 7 and elsewhere in many places.”
How clever and subtle these Arminians were and are! To be sure, they appear to teach that this grace is all of God, is the beginning, continuance and accomplishment of all good; even to this extent that the regenerate man himself, without the prevenient awakening, etc. . .can neither think, will, nor do good, etc. . . . However, then they say that the operation of this grace is not irresistible. Let us understand. It is all grace, but whether that grace will operate in a sinner depends upon that sinner’s free will. The Holy Spirit must regenerate, convert, sanctify, etc., but we must either open or unlock the door of our heart if He is to enter therein. The Holy Spirit must do it all, but we must allow Him to do it. So, the work of salvation depends in the final analysis upon the will of a sinner. Without that sinner’s consent God can do nothing.
The grace of God is either resistible or irresistible. It is either—or. The one follows the other inexorably. If we believe divine, sovereign predestination, that the love of God is exclusively particular, then we must believe in Calvary’s limited or particular atonement. If we believe that all salvation centers in Christ, then we must believe that it never centers in man, and that man is totally, wholly depraved. And then we must believe that we are saved only by God’s irresistible grace, inasmuch as that sinner can never will to be saved. However, if we believe that God’s predestination is conditional, that the love of God is universal, then we must believe that Christ’s atonement is also universal. If God loves all men, would save all men, offers salvation to all men (the first of the Three Points of 1924), then that sinner must also be able to accept that offer, and the Arminian is compelled to deny the total and absolute depravity of the sinner. And if God would save all men, then the grace of God must be resistible; fact is, God would save all men, but He “does not get His way,” is frustrated in that desire, is resisted successfully by the sinner, and the Arminian must believe that the grace of God is resistible. It is well to look at this truth because our salvation is absolutely dependent upon it. If God’s grace is resistible, can be resisted, no sinner can be saved. Why? Because no sinner of himself wills that salvation and will therefore always oppose it.
Is the grace of God resistible or irresistible? The Arminians, as we stated above, claim the grace of God to be resistible. O yes, they quote Scripture, Acts 7:51: “Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.” However, this scripture does not mean that they resist, oppose the work of the Holy Spirit in their own hearts, successfully thwart the Holy Spirit as He would regenerate and save them. But it means that they always resist the Holy Spirit as He operates in the hearts of others. They always oppose the work of the Holy Spirit as it comes to manifestation in the hearts and lives of others. Them they always hate and persecute. How clear this is in the Scripture that follows, Acts 7:52!
The grace of God is indeed irresistible. I cannot, of course, treat this tremendous subject in detail in one short article. I urge our young people to read for themselves the testimony of our fathers as set forth in our confessions and creeds. Read Art. 24 of our Confession of Faith. However, I refer particularly to our Canons, Head 3 and 4. Read very carefully Articles 11, 12, 14, 15 and 16. It is also very beneficial to read those articles of Heads 3 and 4 which deal with Dordt’s rejection of errors. All these articles are very pertinent and instructive. Our young people should read them carefully, digest them, make them their own. Let us know and love our confessions!
What do the Scriptures say? First of all, I call attention to a cardinal truth of the Reformed persuasion and of the Word of God, namely, that God usually regenerates His people in their infancy. We must never forget this. Imagine: the Lord usually regenerates His people in their earliest infancy! Now an infant surely cannot consciously will to receive the regenerating grace of God. This is obvious. The Holy Spirit simply enters into his or her heart. His work is surely irresistible.
Secondly, we are conceived and born dead in sins and in trespasses. We are born dead and blind and deaf and dumb and lame. We are devoid of all life and light and full of death and darkness. We cannot hear or see the things of the kingdom of heaven and we cannot will to hear and see them. The work of divine grace cannot possibly be desired or willed by us. It is strictly divine and irresistible.
And what do the scriptures say? Of great importance is what Jesus tells Nicodemus in John 3. Notice, please, what we read in the verses 3-8. Here the Saviour, speaking of the Holy Spirit, uses the figure of the wind. How important is verse 8! Indeed, the wind bloweth where it listeth, where it pleases. We cannot hear the sound thereof, we cannot tell whence, from where it cometh or goeth. We cannot control it. So, we read, is every one that is born of the Spirit. This surely means that the Holy Spirit operates, not where we will Him to operate, but where He wills to operate. Besides, this work of the Holy Ghost is almighty and irresistible. We are reminded in this connection of the first sign accompanying the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon Pentecost: the sound as of a mighty rushing wind. Indeed, the Spirit operates where He wills to operate.
Notice, too, what we read in John 6:44. No man can, is able to come to Me, except the Father which had sent Me draw him. But this also means that when the Father draws, he must come. This word, draw, means literally to draw or pull with almighty, explosive force. Indeed, the Father’s drawing of the sinner is wholly irresistible.
We would also like to call attention to the Word of God in Romans 9:15-16, 18, 19-21; 11:33-36; Indeed, it is not of him that willeth nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. The grace of God is never dependent upon the sinner! He has mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth. Yes, who hath resisted His will? Does not the divine Potter have power over the clay to make of the same lump one vessel unto honour and another unto dishonour? Can it be stated more clearly that the work of salvation is divinely sovereign and irresistible? Is it not true that of Him and through Him and unto Him are all things, and that to Him, therefore, be all the glory forever?
More, much more can be added and quoted. God has sovereignly elected His own. Christ has suffered and died for them, for them alone. God regenerates His own by His almighty, irresistible grace. Salvation is solely of the Lord.
So, the grace of God is irresistible. Is this important? This truth is all-important. It is the sole guarantee of our salvation. Without this truth our salvation would be impossible. How can a sinner be saved if the grace of God were resistible. Yet, the Arminian is compelled to teach this heresy. He believes in a universal love of God. God, according to him, would save all men. He, therefore, offers salvation to all. The Lord does not determine a sinner’s salvation. He would save all. But all men are not saved. The sinner, therefore, determines his own salvation, can resist the universal love of God. However, then no sinner can possibly be saved. Fact is, no man can
come to Christ except the Father draw him. And if a sinner must will to be saved, can resist and frustrate the universal love of God, then salvation is rendered impossible. But now the grace of God is irresistible. No man is able to resist the will of God. Now our salvation is fully guaranteed. Now we know that He Who hath begun in us His good work will complete it until the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. This alone is comforting. Of God and through Him and unto Him are all things. Now the child of God can be assured of his everlasting and immortal glory. Nothing will ever be able to separate him from the love of God in Christ Jesus, his Lord. He is more than conqueror even now, and he will surely obtain the crown of life and glory.
I WILL PASS OVER YOU.
“When I see the blood, I will pass over you.” Exodus 12:13.
We now turn our attention in this third article to the first letter of TULIP the letter which represents the truth of Total Depravity. Is it not unbelievable that our mother church, the Christian Reformed Church, could deny a truth as clearly scriptural and which is experienced by every child of God? In 1924 that church gave birth to what is known as the Three Points. Point 3 reads as follows: “Relative to the third point which is concerned with the question of civil righteousness as performed by the unregenerate, synod declares that according to Scripture and the Confessions the unregenerate, though incapable of doing any saving good, can do civil good. This is evident from the quotations from Scripture and from the Canons of Dordrecht, head 3, 4, article 4 and from the Netherlands Confession, Article 36, which teach that God without renewing the heart so influences man that he is able to perform civil good; while it also appears from the citations from Reformed writers of the most flourishing period of Reformed Theology, that our Reformed Fathers from ancient times were of the same opinion.”
Let us understand the implication and thrust of this third point. The question if not whether the unregenerate sinner can perform natural good. We mean the following. An unregenerate man can surely bake good, wholesome bread. A sinner can be a very able and proficient farmer; can learn all about farming at an agricultural college. There are surely wicked surgeons and dentists who do their work well. This, however, is the thrust of this third point: the unregenerate sinner can do what is good, in civil life, in the sight of God. He can, in things earthy, do spiritual good. He can do things in this civil life which meet with God’s approval. It is not true of him that he always sins. Fact is he does so much good that he often puts a child of God to shame. He often “out-goods” the child of God. This is the theory of Common Grace.
The Arminian, emphasizing the universal love of God and the general atonement of Christ, must, we should understand, deny total depravity and maintain that the sinner, without the renewing of the heart, can do good before God. The Five Points of Calvinism, represented by TULIP, are inseparably connected and related to each other. They either stand or fall together. This is also true of the Five Points of the Remonstrant’s. The Arminians, in 1610, drew up their own five points of doctrine. This explains why we have five heads of the doctrine in our Canons, our fathers’ answer to the five points of the Remonstrant’s or Arminians. We repeat: The Arminians must deny the doctrine of Total Depravity. If we believe in the universal love of God and in conditional predestination, then we must believe in universal atonement, that Christ dies for all men, head for head. Then we must believe that God gives all men whom He desires to save, the opportunity to be saved. Then we must believe in a general well-meaning offer of salvation. However, if we believe this, then we must deny man’s total or absolute depravity. It surely does not make sense to offer salvation to a dead sinner. One may just as well go to a cemetery and offer life to the dead buried there. We must command the sinner to repent. But an offer of salvation implies a general love of God and a salvation dependent upon the will of the sinner. Ant it is simply folly to offer salvation to a dead sinner. This explains why the Arminian must teach that the sinner is able to accept the offer of salvation. So, he must deny the doctrine of absolute depravity.
Total or absolute depravity – is it scriptural? It surely is! We refer, first of all to Matt. 6: 17-18 and James 3:11-12. Please look up these passages and others to which we will refer. We understand that this corrupt tree surely refers to the natural, unregenerate man. Notice that Jesus teaches here, not only that a corrupt tree does not bring forth good fruit, but that is cannot bring forth good fruit. For a corrupt tree to bring forth good fruit is impossible. And James tells us that same thing in the passage mentioned above. He asks the question: “Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?” And then he writes: “Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries, either vine figs? So can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.” Notice: it is impossible for the fountain to send forth at the same time sweet water and bitter. It is impossible for the fig tree to bear olive berries and for a vine to bear figs. No fountain can yield both salt water and fresh. It is either or.
I now refer to Matt. 7: 21-23. The Common Grace theorists love to speak of the unregenerate sinner who performs much good in the sight of God, and that the Lord approves of these works. Now notice what we read in these verses. Would you not expect the Lord to speak approvingly of these people mentioned here? Jesus here is surely not speaking of the scum and off scouring of society, but of the elite. He is speaking here of those who have prophesied in Christ’s Name, who have cast out devils in His Name (the devils of drunkenness, debauchery and immorality) and who have done many wonderful works in His Name. These are surely society’s elite who have done all within their power to make this world a better place in which we live. These are the noble in society, the people to whom others look up, of whom they speak with respect. These are surely the people who, according to the theory of Common Grace, perform much good in the middle of the world. But what does Jesus say to them? This: I never knew you. And this implies that they never knew Him. And notice, too, that He calls them workers of iniquity. Did they do good? No! They only perform iniquity. A very devastating passage as far as they are concerned who deny men’s total depravity and speak of his goodness before the Lord.
Another passage to which we now call attention is Romans 8: 6-8. Read very carefully also this Word of God. The carnally minded here is the natural man; man without God’s regenerating grace and the Holy Spirit. Notice the following: to be carnally minded is death; the natural man is dead. Then, the carnal mind is enmity against God. Paul does not simply say that the sinner hates God. But he writes that the carnal mind, what we are of ourselves, is enmity against God. That is his being. And then he writes: “for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” And he concludes: “So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” Can you conceive of a more devastating scripture than this Word of God? Is it, therefore, not amazing that a church, such as our mother’s church, can teach the very opposite, deny this Word of God, and teach that a sinner, without the renewing of the heart, is able to perform what is good in the sight of God?
Many more passages can be quoted. Notice what we read in Eph. 2:1-5. Here are apostle teaches us that we were dead in trespasses and sins, that we all had our conversation (walk) in the lusts of the mind, that we were by nature the children of wrath, even as others, that we were quickened when we were dead in sin.” And we can also refer to Ps. 14:1-3 and Ps. 53:1-3.
Yes, many more passages can be quoted. Read, too, what we read in Rom. 3:10-19 and Rom. 5: 12,17. By one man sin entered the world and death by sin. This also includes spiritual death. We are dead, wholly devoid of all life. Even the holiest Christian here has but the smallest principle of the new obedience. John writes in the first of his epistles (1 John 1:18) that if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and truth is not in us. If the holiest Christian has but the smallest principle of the new obedience, what can we say of that sinner who is without the regenerating grace and Spirit of God and of Christ Jesus? What can we say? Surely this: he does not have even the smallest principle.
Is this truth important, this truth of our absolute depravity? Indeed! It is important, first of all because it is the teaching of Holy Writ. That means that it is important because it comes to us from the living God Himself. And, secondly, it is also important for us from a personal, subjective point of view. The righteous need not a physician. He that is whole does not go to a doctor. But, if we are conceived and born dead in sins and in trespasses, then we are hopelessly lost in ourselves and whatever we are as children of God we are by the grace of God alone. Then all our salvation is from God alone, through Jesus Christ, His Son our Lord. Then He is worthy of all praise and adoration to Him, then, be all the glory and praise, even forever.
In our second article on TULIP, we call your attention to the third letter of this word. This third letter of the word representing the Five Points of Calvinism refers to the truth of Limited Atonement. We prefer to speak of Particular Atonement. Of course, we have no objection to the word, limited, as meaning that the atonement of Christ is limited strictly to the elect. Fact is, however, the atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ is also unlimited in a very real sense of the word. unlimited in the sense that it is infinite, bearing the infinite and eternal wrath of God and as covering all the sins (and what a number!) of all the elect throughout all the ages, and meriting an everlasting salvation. We prefer the word. particular, because it so clearly states that the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ extends only to the elect given Him of the Father.
Why do we call attention in this article to the third letter of TULIP? We believe that this is logical. Before we can speak of the preaching of the gospel, whether the sinner is able or unable to embrace or “accept” that gospel, whether he is saved by irresistible or resistible grace and will surely persevere until the end, we must first treat the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Canons also follow this order. The atonement of Christ is treated in the second head of these Canons. Without the cross there would be no preaching of the gospel, no work of grace within the heart of a sinner. Salvation must be merited before it can be bestowed. And let us remember: the cross and God’s counsel of predestination are inseparably connected. If God’s predestination be conditional, if the love of God be universal, then it follows that the cross is also universal. If, however, God’s double predestination be unconditional and sovereignly particular, then it must follow that the cross, too; is particular, that Jesus suffered and died only for the elect. And let us remember one more thing: the question whether the cross of Calvary be universal or particular is crucial. With this question, the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ stands or falls.
Particular or limited atonement – is it scriptural? It surely is. First, we refer to Gen. 3: 15. The text is familiar. It is called the mother promise, the promise from which all subsequent promises issue forth. There we read of the seed of the woman which will bruise, crush the head of the serpent. Why is this pertinent? Because this Seed of the Woman is Christ, and Christ here is surely the head of the seed of the woman, in and through Whom we have the victory.
Secondly, I refer to Matt. 1:21: “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name, Jesus: for He shall save His people from their sins.” That He shall save them surely also includes the cross. Here we have stated the purpose of His coming. And notice: He shall save His people from their sins. And, He shall save them. There is no doubt about this.
Thirdly, who are His people? Are they simply the ones who believe in Him, “accept” Him? This question is clearly answered in the gospel of John. Incidentally, you will notice that I have the word, accept, in quotation marks, indicating that this is the word very commonly used and used by the arminians. We read in John 6:39: “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent Me, that of all which He hath given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” This “will” of the Father is the Father’s mandate to His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. And what is this mandate? To lose nothing of what the Father has given Him. For them He must suffer and die. They are surely the elect. And then there is John 10. We read in verses 11, 15, 16, 27-29: “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. As the Father knoweth Me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them Me, is greater than all: and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand.” These sheep are they given Christ by the Father.
More passages can be added to these. However, we now wish to call attention to a word which the Word of God uses to describe Christ’s death upon the cross of Calvary. I refer to the word, redemption or redeem. The apostle Peter uses this word in I Pet. 1:18. The word occurs throughout the scriptures. It is a very striking word. The arminians really do not know what to do with it. It means: to buy with a price, to ransom, to purchase one’s freedom. What does this imply? We repeat: to redeem means to ransom, to purchase one’s freedom. Redemption means that something very really happened upon the cross of Calvary. Christ’s death does not simply mean that salvation became a possibility, provided that the sinner now agrees to be saved, that God made salvation possible for him, can now renegotiate with the sinner, and will save him if that sinner will now consent to confess his sin and accept the Lord’s salvation. This is the arminian position. Redemption means, however, that salvation has now become a fact. Our sins have been paid and blotted out. Our eternal salvation has been merited. Even as the U. S. government pays the ransom price for an American prisoner, purchases his freedom and now his actual freedom must follow, so now upon the cross of Calvary our deliverance and everlasting salvation have been purchased and must follow. This the arminian rejects. He refuses to glory in the cross, refuses to believe that the cross seals his salvation, would place that salvation as dependent upon the will of the sinner.
So, what happened upon the cross of Calvary? This: the Lamb of God took away the sin of the world (John 1:29). No, this does not refer to the sin of all men, head for head, of everybody. This is obvious. Christ surely did not take away the sin of those who perish. Fact is, their sins are held against them. It is because of their sins that they perish. Their sin, therefore. was never taken away. The sin of the world refers to the sin of the world of God’s love, as that world, with all the elect, will inherit everlasting life and glory in heavenly perfection and immortality. This happened upon the cross of Calvary. Zion was redeemed. All the sins of all the elect throughout all the ages were paid. God’s infinite and eternal wrath was borne in perfect obedience, His justice was satisfied, everlasting life was merited. How true it is that we glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. From that cross all our blessings follow. That cross does not save us because we believe; we believe because of the cross. Not one drop of that precious blood was spilled in vain. All those for whom Jesus died will surely be saved.
We believe in limited or particular atonement. Is this important, namely that Jesus died only for the elect? The arminian believes in a general atonement. He claims that his Christ is richer than our Christ. After all, his Christ died for all men, our Christ died only for some. Is not God’s love of the arminian richer than our conception of that love of God? Is not his scope of the love of God so much broader than ours? Let us not be deceived. The choice is not between a Christ for all and a Christ for some. The choice lies between a Christ for some and a Christ for none. You see, the Christ of the arminian died for all men, also for those who perish. This really means that nothing then happened upon the cross of Calvary. Christ also died for those, I repeat, who perish. This means that He did not pay for or remove their sins. Had He really paid for their sins they could never perish. But this also means that Jesus really died for nobody. All He did was give an example to all men of God’s universal love. But this love is impotent. It cannot save. It surely could not save those who perish. Jesus died and His blood was spilled in vain. What an impotent death of Christ upon the cross of Calvary! And with this blood of Christ, which never paid for one solitary sin, the arminian would do mission work! How vain and ridiculous! That arminian really has nothing to offer-bear in mind that he conceives of the preaching of the gospel as a general, well-meaning offer of salvation.
Indeed, the arminian has nothing. However, we may and must proclaim Jesus and Him crucified. That Jesus died for me if I have learned to confess my sin and turn unto the living God. That is, He died for me because my repentance is the fruit of the cross and, therefore, seals the blessed truth that, dying atoningly, He paid for all my sins and iniquities. In that cross we glory. In that cross we may surely glory. Redeemed through the blood of the cross we are and will be saved forevermore.
This article is the first of a series of 5 on the 5 points of Calvinism.
Having been asked to write an article for Beacon Lights on each letter of TULIP, or the Five Points of Calvinism, I gladly comply.
My first article will deal with the subject of Unconditional Election or Predestination, the second letter of TULIP. Why? Because the truth of God’s unconditional predestination is basic and fundamental. With this truth the other truths as represented by TULIP stand or fall. How well the Arminians of the seventeenth century knew and understood this! How they hated the truth of God’s absolutely sovereign election and opposed it! This also applies to the Three Points of 1924. The first of these points concern the preaching of the gospel as a general well-meaning offer of salvation. Fundamentally, this means that this first point speaks of a general, universal love of God to all who hear the preaching of the gospel. Scripture uses many words and expressions to denote this election of the church. Of course, there is the word “election,” as in Eph. 1:4, 1 Thess. 1:4, etc. But there are also several other words and expressions. In John 3: 16 and Deut. 7:7,8 we read of the love of God. In Rom. 8:28 we read of God’s purpose. In I Pet. 2:7-9, a very pertinent passage, we read of double predestination; election and reprobation, as also in Matt. 11:25,26. In Heb. 6:17 we read of the heirs of promise and the immutability of God’s counsel. And in John 10 and Rom. 8:29,30 we read the words, “know” and “foreknow”. Of the Father and the Son we read that they know the sheep.
God’s election of His church is surely sovereign. When we say that it is sovereign we mean that the ground of election never rests in the sinner, but that the Lord chose and reprobated as He did only because He willed to do so. This sovereignty is denied today. Indeed, we say that it is denied openly. Today the truth of reprobation is brazenly denied. And, of course, if we deny reprobation we must also deny election. The two surely either stand or fall together. To believe in election means that we believe that God elected some and that He did not elect all.
Notice how the Scriptures emphasize this sovereign truth. First, I call attention to Deut. 7:7,8. Please look this up in your Bible. I do not have the time or space to quote these passages. Did God love and choose His people because of anything in them, because of their attractiveness? Indeed not! He did not choose or love them because they were more in number. Why did He love them? The answer is: He simply loved them because He would keep His oath toward them. And may I add that these people of Israel surely “tried their hardest” to have the Lord forget this oath and change His attitude in respect to them.
Secondly, I call attention to Eph. 1:4. Again I ask you to look this up in your Bible. The question is: did God elect and reprobate because of faith and unbelief, or is the cause of God’s predestination solely in the Lord. so that faith does not precede God’s election but follows from it as its fruit? What do we read here? That God chose us because we were holy (conditional election) or in order that we should be holy? We read: “According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.” So, God’s election is surely unconditional: “that, in order that we should be holy . . . .”
Thirdly, I call attention to Matt. 11:25,26. In this passage Jesus thanks the Father because He had hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them unto babes, and He adds: “Even so. Father: for so it seemed good in Thy sight.” Here we read that this hiding from the wise and prudent, etc., was according to, and because of the Father’s good pleasure. God’s good pleasure is the eternal, sovereign cause of it.
Another passage is John 10:26 – “But ye believe not, because ye are not of My sheep, as I said unto you.” Were they not of His sheep because they did not believe? Was their unbelief the cause of their not being Christ’s sheep? No! We read that they did not believe because they were not of His sheep. And, as far as His sheep are concerned (see John 10:29), the Father gave them to Christ before the foundation of the world.
Another passage is I Pet. 2:7-9. Some people would have us believe that the truth of reprobation is not taught in the Word of God. In this passage, however, both are taught, election and reprobation. We therefore speak of double predestination. That verse 9 speaks of election is obvious. But, were the wicked reprobated because of their disobedience? This would be conditional reprobation. However, we read here that they were appointed to stumble and to be disobedient. This is surely unconditional reprobation, even as in Matt. 11:25,26. Notice that we read this at the conclusion of verse 8: “whereunto (this disobedience and stumbling of verse 8) also they were appointed.”
We now call attention to another passage: Rom. 9:9-13. Here we read that the Lord loved Jacob and hated Esau before they did good or evil in order that the purpose according to election might stand. God’s eternal love of Jacob and hatred of Esau, according to this passage, were not because of Jacob’s good and Esau’s evil, although it is true, of course, that the Lord hates all wickedness. However, in Rom. 9:9-13 the apostle is speaking of God’s eternal sovereignty. Two questions are very pertinent here. First, why was Esau born first? Now Jacob was surely the heir to the birthright blessing. That Esau was born first was surely no accident. God, of course, worked this. Imagine all the grief and misery that could have been spared Isaac and Rebecca, and Esau and Jacob, had Jacob been born first! That Esau is born first and Jacob inherits the birthright blessing is, of course. to emphasize God’s sovereignty, that He reverses the natural law, as it were, to reveal that He does what and as He wills. But, there is also another question which we wish to ask here, namely: why is it revealed to Rebecca before the twins were born that the younger shall rule over the elder, and that the elder shall serve the younger? We understand, of course, that this is revealed in Scripture for our sake. It was, of course, revealed for the sake of Isaac and Rebecca. But, that the Word of God speaks of it is, of course, for our sake and for our instruction. If we were to judge Esau and his failure to obtain the birthright blessing in the light of history, in the light of how Esau conducted himself, we could possibly conclude that Esau did not obtain it because he had made himself unworthy of it. And it is, of course, true that Esau did reveal himself as profane. He is surely profane, a despiser of God’s covenant. This is his sin and he is held accountable for it. Nevertheless, it is revealed to Rebecca and to us, before they are born, that the elder would serve the younger because we must understand that this history unfolds itself as it does according to God’s sovereign will. and that God loved Jacob sovereignly, and hated Esau sovereignly, before either did good or bad. And this means that the truth of double predestination is a divinely sovereign truth.
What a wonderfully comforting truth is this truth of God’s sovereign predestination! It is a wonderfully comforting truth as far as the personal child of God is concerned. Now he knows that, once saved. he will remain saved forever. Now he knows that his salvation is anchored in the eternal, unchangeable and unconditional will of God. Now he knows that nothing can ever separate him from the love of God which is in Jesus Christ, his Lord. Now he knows that his everlasting salvation and glory are assured because nothing is dependent upon the will of the sinner. His salvation now rests upon the Rock of Ages, the unchangeable God of his salvation. This is one tremendous comfort. However, to this we would add another truth. The doctrine of sovereign election is also the driving motive behind all true mission work. It has been said that a church can do mission work only if it teaches a universal love of God and a universal atonement of Christ. Nothing is farther from the truth. A universal love of God is a love of God that loves all men, also those who perish. This universal love is not almighty, but impotent to save countless millions of lost souls. But the will of God that is almighty and efficacious, and a love of God that is always first, accomplishes their purpose, and never fails. Now, performing mission work, proclaiming this love, the church may and can do mission work, and need never fear, because that church knows that they who have been given Christ of the Father, will surely come to Him. May we as churches, particularly as young people, never lose sight of God’s unconditional predestination, unconditional double predestination.
I wish to congratulate our young people upon the choice of this subject. Do you, young people, realize that the Christian Reformed Church’s (our mother church) adoption of the Three Points in 1924, their choice of a common and a general grace of God, led very directly to their present sad and deplorable condition? Having been asked to write an article for our Beacon Lights on the subject: Common Grace versus TULIP, I gladly consent. Are you really interested in this subject? It is, of course, my desire that our Beacon Lights be read by our young people. After all, this is their periodical. And our young people should read it.
We are all. I am sure, acquainted with TULIP. It is the word which represents. symbolizes the Five Points of Calvinism. These Five Points of Calvinism are: Total Depravity, Unconditional Predestination (Election and Reprobation), Limited or Particular Atonement, Irresistible Grace, Perseverance of the Saints. We prefer the term, Particular Atonement to Limited Atonement. We understand that the term Limited Atonement means that Christ’s atonement is limited only to the elect. Yet, in a certain sense Christ’s death is also unlimited, unlimited in the sense that it is boundless in its value. The word, particular, stresses that the sufferings and death of our Lord are intended, of God and of Christ, only for them given Christ of the Father from before the foundations of the world.
Our subject also speaks of Common Grace. I have already mentioned that the Christian Reformed Church, in 1924. adopted a common and a general grace of God. You see, we can distinguish between Common Grace and General Grace. Both, of course, are common, as intended for and bestowed upon all men and not merely upon the elect. The idea of Common Grace refers to the things of this present time. It means that the Lord bestows rain and sunshine, food and drink, health and strength, all the things of this present time in His divine love and favour. Common Grace refers to a universal love of God. It also means that, when Adam sinned, the Lord exercised a checking, restraining operation of His Spirit upon him so that the process of sin was checked in him. Adam did not become wholly corrupt. And it also speaks of a general operation of His Spirit whereby the sinner is enabled by God to do good in His sight in the midst of the world. This is what is commonly known among us as the theory of Common Grace. General Grace, however, also common to others besides the elect, refers to salvation. It emphasizes that God would save all men, that His predestination is conditional, upon foreseen faith and unbelief, that Christ died for every man, and that the preaching of the gospel is a general, well-meaning offer of salvation. in which God graciously offers salvation to all who hear the gospel. All men, of course, are not saved. Only some are saved. But that all men are not saved is not because of the will of God but because of the will of the sinner. God loves all men. He would save all men. If God “had his way” all men would be saved. But the will of God is thwarted, frustrated by the will of the sinner. It is the sinner who determines his salvation.
TULIP, symbolizing the Five Points of Calvinism, is surely thoroughly scriptural. Total Depravity is indeed set forth in the Word of God-see Ephesians 2:l-3, Romans 8:6-8, Ephesians 5:8 (We are by nature darkness, do not merely perform deeds of darkness and sin, but darkness is our very being). Unconditional Predestination (double predestination, election and reprobation) is also indisputably set forth in the Word of God. God has elected us unconditionally, not because of foreseen faith-see Ephesians 1:4. Notice in this passage that God chose us, not because of our holiness, but that we should be holy. And then there are passages such as Deuteronomy 7:7-8 and Romans 9: 11-13. Reprobation, too, is unconditional. There are those who would maintain that Scripture teaches election but not reprobation. How wrong they are! Reprobation, too, is surely scriptural. Notice what we read in Matthew 11:25-26. That these things are hidden from the wise and prudent is the Father’s good pleasure, for “so it seemed good in Thy sight.” And then there is also I Peter 2:8. This stumbling at the word, being disobedient, was according to divine appointment, even as we read: “whereunto also the): were appointed.” And Romans 9:11-13 teaches us that Esau was hated before he had done any evil. Limited or Particular Atonement is also thoroughly in harmony with the Word of God. How pertinent is what we read in John 10: 11, 15, 26-30 We must not overlook verse 26 in this chapter. Jesus does not say that they are not His sheep because they believe not, but that they believe not because they are not of His sheep. He, therefore, ascribes their unbelief to the fact that God has never chosen them. Pertinent is also a passage such as John 12:37-41. There we read that “therefore they could not believe because of what Esaias had said, namely, that He hath blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart and be converted, and I should heal them.” And there is also John 6:39. Remember, the Father’s will which had sent Christ, the Father’s mandate to the Christ was not to save all but to lose nothing of all which He had given Him. Indeed, our Lord Jesus Christ died only for His elect own. Irresistible Grace, too, is taught everywhere in the Word of God. We read in Psalm 138:8 and Philippians 1:6 of this irresistible grace of the Lord. Notice, too, what we read in John 6:44. If it be true, and it is, that no man can come unto Christ except the Father draw him, then it is equally and emphatically true that when the Father draws him he must come. Indeed, it is not of him that runneth or willeth but of God that shews mercy (Romans 9: 16. 18), and this mercy of God is efficacious and irresistible. Does the living God not raise the dead, give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, walking to the lame, speech to the dumb? Is our God not the living God Who calls life out of death? And what shall we say about the Perseverance of the Saints? The Arminians deny this truth. The scriptures, however, teach it everywhere. The apostle, in Philippians 1:6, is confident of this very thing that He Who has begun a good work in us will perform, finish it until the day of Jesus Christ. The Lord will surely finish and complete what He has once begun.
And what must be our appraisal of the theory of Common Grace? Common Grace is indeed a theory. It is surely not confessional. It is nowhere taught in our reformed confessions. TULIP is God-centered, gives all glory to God. Common Grace is man-centered, does not glorify God, centers in the interests of man.
First, Common Grace sets forth a universal love of God. God loves all men, gives them natural things in His love and favour, has His gospel preached as a general well-meaning gracious offer of salvation because, in His love, He would save all. How contrary this is to the Word of God. Indeed, an attribute of the Lord which received very prominent mention in the Word of God is the attribute, the divine perfection of God’s holiness. We refer to Isaiah 6: l-7, Habakkuk 1:13, Hebrews 12:29. Notice how in Isaiah 6 the prophet is overwhelmed by the holiness of Jehovah. Indeed, according to verse 3 in this chapter our God is thrice holy. And Isaiah laments and bemoans his uncleanness and undoneness. God Himself is a holy covenant God. He is light and in Him is not darkness at all. Only he who walks in the light has fellowship with God, as we read in I John 1 :5-7. The theory of Common Grace, teaching a universal love of God, is surely in direct conflict with God’s perfect and infinite holiness.
Secondly, the theory of Common Grace teaches a checking and restraining operation of the Spirit of God within the sinner, restraining his sin and corruption and enabling him to do much good in the sight of God. We do not deny a certain civic good. A wicked baker can bake good and wholesome bread. A wicked farmer knows how to work his land. A wicked dentist and surgeon know how to perform their tasks well. But we deny that this civic good is good in the sight of the Lord. Nowhere do the scriptures teach such a restraining operation of the Holy Spirit within the individual sinner. O, he cannot do whatever he desires to do. His outward conduct and activity is surely held in restraint. A sinner knows it is wise for him to obey the law outwardly, so that he does not steal or kill or disobey the traffic laws. But Scripture nowhere speaks of an internal restraining operation of the Holy Spirit in the life of an individual sinner. On the contrary, the sinner is conceived and born dead in sin and in misery, is not subject to the law of God and cannot be subjected to it. How pertinent in this connection is Romans 8:6-8! He is dead, full of darkness, full of hatred of God and of his neighbor. This is his inner being and life. Indeed, if the Word of God teaches anything, it is surely that whatever is not of faith is sin, that he loves the darkness rather than the light.
Thirdly. the theory of Common Grace repudiates the Word of God when it teaches that God gives all men things in His love and favour. Notice what we read in Psalm 73: 17-19, Psalm 92:5-7, Romans 8:28. God loves the righteous, but the unrighteous and wicked His soul hateth and loatheth. Indeed, according to Proverbs 3:33, the curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked, but He blesses the habition of the just. And this surely means that the curse of the Lord is upon the wicked and upon all that he has.
Finally, how contrary is the theory of a General Grace to the scriptures! The gospel a general, well-meaning gracious offer of salvation? God loves those whom He eternally hates? God would save those whom He has eternally reprobated? Indeed, the gospel is not an offer. It is the power of God unto salvation, as we read in Romans 1: 16. God would save all? The gospel is a savor of life unto life but also a savor of death unto death, as we read in II Corinthians 2:14-17. Indeed, the Lord’s counsel shall stand and He will perform all His good pleasure. Our God is surely God, God alone.
I have attempted to set forth in a brief article the wonderful truth of TULIP and how it is denied by the theory of a Common Grace and of a General Grace. May we as young people and as Protestant Reformed Churches never forget this truth, always remember it, and seal it with a proper walk.
How important is our calling to remember our Creator, Who created us, also distinctively, with all our own gifts and talents! Whatever vocation in life we choose, it was chosen for us and created in us. And to remember our Creator implies, negatively, that we must never be motivated by ourselves, our own personal gain or material advancement. And, positively, we must always be prompted by the love of God and do all things unto the glory of His Name.
I have been asked to call your attention to this subject as it applies to the sphere of the church. I consider it an honor to have been selected as one of your speakers. We now call your attention to the following aspects of this subject: I. Who You Are; II. Your Distinctive Calling; III. The Fulfillment of your Calling
I. Who You Are
Who and what are you? We ran into this question while conducting church visitation last May in our church in New Jersey. Our people there have the problem of choosing between three Christian schools and decided to send their children to the Netherlands Reformed school. In this school, the teachers would ask the children: “Who are you?”, and the children were instructed to answer: we are unbelievers.
Now this is in harmony with the view of these churches. They believe that one can have the assurance of his salvation only when the Lord speaks to them, even apart from the Scriptures in some dramatic way. They advocate sudden conversions, to be converted in some sudden and dramatic way. Only they have the boldness to attend the Lord’s Supper. Now it is a fact that Scripture does not speak too often of these sudden and dramatic conversions. We do read of King Manasseh, the murderer upon the cross, Lydia, the Philippian jailer, and perhaps Saul who was named Paul. Why is this? Because it is the most characteristically reformed truth that the Lord realizes His covenant in the line of successive generations. Indeed, we must be regenerated and converted. Of course! But the Lord usually changes His elect people during their infancy. It is then that He regenerates them. And our conversion is something which we usually experience, not suddenly, later in life, but gradually, from our early childhood on.
Who and what are you? You are covenant youth. What does that mean? Does this mean that we presuppose all the youth in the church to be true children of God? That we must view every child as God’s child until he or she proves himself or herself to be the opposite? This cannot be. And the reason is simple: all is not Israel that is called Israel. The line of election and reprobation runs right through all the children of believers.
You are called saints. That is your name, the name of every one of you. Even as carnal, reprobate Israel was also called Israel. When the apostles address the churches as saints, believers, children of God, etc., he addresses every one of them. Only, why are you called a saint? Is this your name simply because you are organically connected with the people, having been born in the sphere of the church? A tomato plant, for example, has vines that bear fruit and it also has vines that do not bear fruit. But, the entire plant bears the name of what it essentially is. This also explains who you are. We know that among the children of believers are the people of God. Now the same labor is bestowed upon all the children, but for the positive purpose of the elect seed. If you had a tomato plant with no fruit-bearing vines, you would pluck it out and destroy it. The farmer also has weeds in his garden and chaff among the com, but his positive purpose is the com, his crop. That is his purpose. And when our children reveal any desire, apparently real desire, in the things of God’s Word and covenant, we will believe such a one to be a child of God until he or she shows it to have been a sham. That person need not have a sudden, dramatic conversion. God usually changes His elect sinners in their infancy. But we must have an aversion to sin and a delight in God’s commandments, and this is possible also among children and the youth, and must be present in them if the work of God’s grace has been begun in them.
Now, what are the implications of this? This explains all the work and activity within the home and church. There are really only two agencies of instruction: the home and the church. The school is merely an extension of the home. Even as the farmer cultivates his soil because of the seed in it, so all the instruction in the home is geared to feed and nourish the seed of God’s covenant. We instruct them, admonish them, chastise them, all for the purpose of the proper growth and development of the seed of God’s covenant. This also explains why we have Christian schools. O, it is not true that all the children are unbelievers. We do not have our own schools as mission stations, to form God’s people, change, mold them into God’s people, but because they are God’s people, as represented, of course, in the elect. This is also the purpose of the church. The preaching of the Word, but also all catechetical instruction has for its purpose of the church. The preaching of the Word, but also all catechetical instruction has for its purpose the training, growth, edification, building up of the church of God, that it may grow in all the knowledge and grace of Jesus Christ, our Lord.
This also explains what prompts me now. I am interested in the question how you may advance materially in the midst of the world. Of course, we will be called to work and to earn money. But all this is only secondary. And when I say “secondary”, I do not mean that this is second in importance, of less importance, but also therefore of some importance. There is only one goal. Only one thing is important: the glory of God’s Name. And what we do has importance only in the measure that it serves that one goal. If we fail to serve the Lord, whatever we do has no importance whatever; in fact, it will testify against us eternally, and it were better had we never been born.
II. Your Distinctive Calling
The youth has many characteristics. The characteristics of a child are different. A child is characterized by receptivity. A child receives. It is strictly dependent upon another, for all its food, physically and spiritually. Secondly, a child is characterized by submission. A child must be docile, silent, willing to learn. Some children can act as if they know it all; you can enter some homes where the children monopolize the discussion. They are little “wise acres”. One feels instinctively that there is something wrong in such homes. Thirdly, a child is and must be obedient. This is undoubtedly the most important characteristic of the child. Moreover, a child does not concern itself with the future, but with the present. A child lives by the day, although it will long for the day when the drudgery of school will be over. A child does not concern itself with marriage, with one’s vocation, with what he will do later in life, how he will earn his weekly wage, etc.; he is concerned with, lives in the present.
The age of youth is different. You begin to take inventory of yourselves, inquire into and concerning the talents the Lord has given you. You begin to think of a boyfriend or a girlfriend. Your do not live in the present anymore; you begin to live in the future.
What is the one characteristic of youth? Let us pinpoint it. What is the one thing that dominates this age? Indeed, a wonderful age it is. It is the age of little concern. You are not troubled with the thought that life is transitory. You view all of life as lying before you. The old realize that they are approaching the end of their days. But, this does not concern you. Why not? Why is it that you have little and few troubles? Why is this characteristic of your age? Why did the Lord give you such an age? In order that you may concentrate upon the one dominating characteristic of your youth. And, what is this characteristic? This: the youth is the period of preparedness for your position in life. Upon this you will and must concentrate all your thoughts and all your inclinations. And, of course, you will do this as covenant youth, Christian youth. You must not be dominated by worldly, carnal materialism. You will and must be controlled by the will of God, by that petition: Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth. You will be controlled by this: how can I do the will of God, in that place which my sovereign God and Creator has assigned to me? And we must understand this from a two-fold point of view. In my youth, I must prepare myself for my place in the midst of the church. I must take my place in the ranks of the church of God. I must prepare myself to receive the means of grace, the preaching of the Word and the sacraments, to fight as true soldiers of the cross. And this becomes all the more urgent and serious as we are aware of our present day and age, that we are hastening to the end of the ages, to the time when the days will be shortened for the sake of the elect, when persecution will break loose in all its unprecedented fury. And, in my youth, I must also prepare myself for my place in the midst of the world, to occupy in that world the place my Creator has assigned to me.
III. The Fulfillment of your Calling
You must be prepared for your place in the midst of the church. First, there is your calling in re marriage. I recommend to you the articles of Rev. C. Hanko in re these things in our Beacon Lights during this past season. Of course, you must marry in the Lord, and this means in the truth, and this means in the truth as set forth in our churches, because we surely preach and teach the true and perfect doctrine of salvation. To seek and find your life’s mate is such a serious matter, because it is for life, and also because this institution of marriage has become a laughing stock in our present day and age. And, be clean, sexually clean in your friendships and courtships. Girls, do not sell yourselves, make yourselves sexually attractive. If, so doing, you “get” somebody, you will not get much. And I assure you that he will not get much either.
Then, there is your calling to make confession of faith. Confession of faith does not mean primarily that then you confess your love of God and of Christ and your faith in Christ Jesus. We must always be on guard against this conception. The principle question then is not: do you love God and the Lord Jesus? Of course, this question is important. Of course, you must make confession of faith truly and sincerely. Of course, it is an abomination to the Lord merely to make confession of faith with the mouth. Hypocrisy is always an abomination in the eyes of the Lord. However, we must bear in mind the following. On the one hand, the Lord usually regenerated His people in their infancy. If the primary question were merely: do you love God and Christ, what would prevent a little child from making confession of faith? Besides, this is not asked at our public confession of faith. We ask then whether one believes the doctrine as taught in this local Christian church to be the true and perfect doctrine of salvation, and also whether they will fight and oppose every heresy repugnant thereto. One would not ask these questions of a little child, say of one five years old. According to the reformed conception, this one making confession of faith has been a child of God from his infancy on, generally speaking. Public confession of faith means that you are willing and ready to assume your place in the ranks of the people of God, to assume an active role in all the activities of the Church of God. Unto that end, you must submit to all catechetical instruction, be trained in all the fundamental truths of the Word of God, and also in all heresies, in order that you may fight the good fight of faith. Unto this end, you must be faithful in all society life, and attend it spiritually, receiving instruction and contributing to the welfare of your society. What a task belongs to the home and also to the church!
You must also be prepared for your place in the midst of the world. Be ready to serve God antithetically in the midst of the world. Consider your gifts and talents, and develop then. Be equipped naturally. Develop your gifts and talents with respect to body and soul. Do not waste your time. Be leaders, workers, not loafers. Be ready to serve your Creator to the best of your ability. Do whatever you do ably, to the best of your ability. Be also and especially equipped spiritually. Study the Word of God, familiarize yourselves with it. Know the will of God, what He requires of you. Be able to distinguish that will of God from whatever is opposed to it: be able to distinguish the true from the false, the truth from the lie, the friend from the foe. Understand the world, be not led astray by the theory of Common Grace, which would lay a bridge between the church and the world. Be equipped with the truth, with the whole armour of God. And as you prepare yourselves, do so earnestly and prayerfully, knowing that the time is short and you cannot afford to waste it.
Indeed, remember your Creator, also as in the Church. And may the Lord be with you, and make you strong, through His Word and Spirit.
Young People, these are the outlines for the discussion groups at the convention. Read and study them to be prepared to take an active part.
1. Meaning of light
a. Scriptural references: John 3:19-21; Eph. 5:8; I Thess. 5:4-8; I John 1:5-7.
b. We can make the following distinctions:
1) Physical light — light is movement, travelling at the rate of 186,000 miles per second, taking up into itself the image of things, revealing them to the perceiving eye. We can, therefore, speak of the light of the physical eye.
2) Rational light — this is the light of the understanding, the mind. We often speak of it in this sense: working on a problem, for example, we say: “I see it.”
3) Spiritual light
a) God is light.
1] Light is a spiritual concept, not merely knowledge. Then darkness would be merely ignorance.
2] Light in God is that eternal movement within the Triune God whereby He knows and loves Himself and beholds Himself in the sphere of eternal goodness and perfection.
b) Light for us is that spiritual movement of God’s grace and Spirit upon the elect sinner, translating him out of the darkness of sin and causing that sinner to turn to the living God, to know Him and to love Him, and to walk as children of the light in the midst of the world. Darkness in Scripture refers to sin and death, the hatred of God, and light means to know God and love Him with all our heart and mind and soul and strength.
2. The subject before us calls our attention to our calling to be shining lights in our speech and reading. We prefer to treat our reading first.
Shining Lights in our Reading
A. Why do we discuss our reading first?
1. This reading includes many things.
a. It includes our hearing. After all, what we read enters our consciousness through the ear. All reading material is adapted fundamentally to the ear.
b. It includes all the “instruction” we receive through television.
c. It includes all the books and magazines we read.
d. The whole field of instruction is meant here.
2. The ear is fundamental.
a. Jesus’ miracle as recorded in Mark 7:31-37.
1) We should read this scriptural narrative.
2) Why does Jesus first put His finger into his ears and then spit and touch his tongue?
3) The ear must be opened first before the tongue can be loosed.
b. Let us understand.
1) We are by nature conceived and born dead in sins and in trespasses, full of sin and darkness.
2) Before we can speak unto God’s glory, that glory and praise of God must first enter into us. We must first receive the grace of God before we can speak of it.
3) Here, of course, I am discussing this reading with covenant young people whose ears have been opened.
B. What do we read?
1. Indeed, there is so much reading material available.
a. Think of all the trash on the market.
1) What an abundance of rotten, filthy, corrupt, sexy novels.
2) What an abundance of corrupt paperbacks. I have seen our young people looking at all this stuff in our drugstores. How repulsive these paperbacks are!
3) Think of all this stuff on the television screen. All these movies. And remember, movies are wrong. Apart now from the evil of impersonating another, life may and cannot be played, whether you attempt to play the life of a sinner or a saint. Why is this true?
4) And then, of course, there is an abundance of so-called spiritual literature, in which the truths of the Word of God are undermined, distorted and denied.
b. And then there is so much good reading material available: the Bible, Beacon Lights, the Standard Bearer, our radio sermons, commentaries, Sunday School pamphlets, the books of Rev. Hoeksema, Rev. Engelsma, Professors Hanko, Decker and Hoeksema, etc. And when you avail yourselves of all these, there are clean books for relaxation. And also books to increase one’s learning.
2. So, what do you read?
a. Do you fill your souls with trash?
b. Do you watch movies, either in the theaters or in your homes on television?
c. Do you read the Bible, regularly?
d. Do you read Beacon Lights, regularly, and also the Standard Bearer? There are certainly things in the Standard Bearer we can read. John writes this of the youth in 1 John 2:12-14. Does this characterize you?
e. Do you prepare for your society meetings? Are you ready to discuss? Or, do you visit during the meeting instead of taking part in the discussion?
f. Are you walking as shining lights in your reading? Remember, what you read and digest controls and affects very seriously your spiritual life.
Shining Lights in our Speaking
A. We are always speaking.
1. As such:
a. This does not necessarily mean that we speak audibly.
b. We also speak within ourselves to ourselves. What else is thinking than that we speak within ourselves to ourselves? And this we do constantly.
2. Tremendously serious!
a. We must speak. And when we speak we always speak concerning God.
1) We have been created image bearers of God. What does this mean? See Rev. Hoeksema’s Triple Knowledge, Vol. 1, Lord’s Day 3, Chapters I and II.
2) We cannot ignore the Lord. We must speak concerning Him, whether for Him or against Him. Always we deal with God’s Name, His revelation of Himself, in all His works and also in Christ. And we will always do one of two things: reverence that Name or use it in vain.
b. How serious this is!
1) When we speak, we do so consciously and knowingly.
2) We know how we should speak. We know when we are speaking evilly. And we are surely responsible for what we say; we are held accountable.
B. What is our speech?
1. Scriptural references: Eph. 4: 15; 5:4 and 19; I Tim. 4:2, 5:13. To these passages many more, of course, can be added.
2. Do we indulge in profanity, in filthy, sexy talk? I am informed that there are young people, attending our schools, who are guilty of this. Are you guilty of it?
3. Do you speak nonsense, things that do not and cannot edify?
4. Is your speaking only about carnal things, the things of this world? It is said that the mouth will speak of that whereof the heart overflows.
5. Reading and speaking. They are inseparably connected.
C. What our speech should be.
1. We should speak unto the glory of God.
2. We should speak unto the edification of the church and of the people of God, our fellow young people.
3. We should speak as condemning the wicked, also when our fellow young people speak wickedly.
4. And this we can do only through prayer and the study of the infallible Word of our God.
V. Verses 26-27.
A. The connection.
1. In this verse Paul refers again to the judicial ground for the “gave them up” of verse 24 — see explanation of this expression.
2. In verse 24 he had written in general of the corruption in which the Lord had “given them up” through their own lusts.
3. In this verse (verse 26) he speaks of those vile, dishonorable and filthy passions in greater detail.
B. Notice what he writes here in these verses.
1. First, the apostle refers to those passions and movements of sin which are related to a sinful and impure sexual life — why does the apostle mention this first?
a. First, this sin is really first, and stands upon the foreground in the world that forsakes God. How general is also this sin today! Explain.
b. Secondly, it is the most abominable sin, a sin which lowers man beneath the animal, the basest of all evils.
c. Finally, this sin stands at the beginning of the sum of vile passions in which God particularly burns with wrath upon the human race.
2. Secondly, the women are mentioned first, in verse 26.
a. He does this, not only because this sin is more repulsive in women than in men, but also because the women generally lead the way in this sin.
b. The meaning is not that they change the natural use of the man against nature, but that they satisfy their vile passions in their own bodies. Thereby they corrupt and destroy their own bodies.
3. Thirdly, in verse 27 the apostle declares the same of the man.
a. How terrible is the sin of sodomy!
b. And they receive in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet, proper.
1) This “error” does not refer to the change of the female and malt relations, because this is part of the recompense, but to their departure from the living God.
2) Whoever stands perverse over against God stands perverse and crooked over against all things.
3) God Himself sees to it that we can never separate the second table from the first table of that law. He makes the sinner unspeakably foolish, causes him to become lower than the animals. This is proper. If an animal be my god (verse 23) then that god must also stand above me, and I will do things that are unheard of even in the animal world.
VI. Verse 28.
A. The connection.
1. Again the apostle uses the expression, “gave them up,” as in verse 24.
2. Only, now the apostle will refer to a further giving over by God of the sinner in greater sin and corruption than he had mentioned until now.
B. Their sin.
1. We read: “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge.”
2. We read literally: “And even as they did not approve to have God in their knowledge.”
a. To “approve” means to examine and then express a judgment, whether that judgment be good or bad.
b. Man stood before the question whether to serve God or not. He could not evade that question. God burned it into his soul. He had to express a judgment.
c. And his answer was: “I judge it not good to reckon with God.” What a terrible and perverted judgment!
C. Their punishment
1. God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do the things which are not convenient
2. God gave them over to a reprobate mind. What is a “reprobate mind”? What does it mean that God gave them over to such a reprobate mind? Did they not already have this reprobate mind? Or, does it mean that He gave them over to it so that they were completely governed by it in all their life, so that they judged evil to be good and the good to be evil, in all their personal, physical, spiritual life, and also in their lives as in relation to others?
3. The result was: they did those things which are not convenient, proper, fitting. They did things that did not fit anywhere. Neither did they agree with the ordinances of God for their own life. They did things which worked their own destruction. They judged it to be not good to serve and love God. God shows them that He alone is good and whoever departs from Him must experience nothing but misery and woe.
VII. Verses 29-31.
A. In these verses the apostle gives a vivid description of the actual condition of the wicked world that hates God.
B. What a list of fearful abominations!
1. We read that they are filled; there is room for nothing else! The word “all” applies to all these terms as expressed in verse 29. All these words, we must understand, apply to the sinner’s inner life.
2. Unrighteousness. This sin is the opposite of righteousness which is harmony with the will and law of God.
3. Fornication. See what the apostle has written in verses 26-27.
4. Wickedness. Unrighteousness is rebellion against God. Wickedness emphasizes the evil as such of our nature, which hates Cod.
5. Maliciousness. This sin views this evil of our nature from the viewpoint of that evil nature to seek the evil. The word may be translated “viciousness.”
6. Covetousness. This refers to the lusts of the flesh and of the pride of life to subject all of creation to their service of sin.
7. Envy. Man’s evil nature desires all of creation only for himself and never for another.
9. Debate or strife. This is the same as “murder,” only as revealed in the word. Everywhere sinners seek themselves. Hence, there is no unity among them. This is also true of nations. Notice the “United Nations” today. How every country is out to cut and slash the other’s throat.
10. Deceit or guile. Sinners try to obtain by means of deceit. The Dutch saying reads: “As is the host, so he trusts his guests.”
11. Malignity. This is evil distrust. If we deceive another we expect to be deceived.
12. Whisperers. The meaning is that we are so conscious of our own deceit and evil that we speak in secret. What we say cannot stand the light of day.
13. Slanderers or backbiters. Over against each other they speak evil of one another. They kill each other by means of the tongue. Explain this.
14. Haters of God. In itself this word “haters” can be objective or subjective, hated of God of hating God. Here the meaning is subjective: hating God. As soon as you mention God among each other, this hatred reveals itself.
13. Despiteful or insolent. They stand in an attitude of disdainful pride over against each other.
16. Proud. Always they exalt themselves above the other.
17. Boasters. They always puff themselves up, and this in contrast to others.
18. Inventors of evil things. Always they seek to invent things that can cause evil to the neighbor. They use all their powers to create things to destroy one another.
19. Disobedient to parents. This is to be expected. Such sinners, who stand in that relation to God and one another, are, of course, revolutionary. They trample all authority under foot. How true today! This does not mean that, outwardly, they trample all authority under foot. But it does mean that they will obey only insofar as it serves their own interests?
20. Without understanding.
a. The sinner has not understanding of spiritual things, and he has no conception.
b. The sinner is a fool, also with respect to all things around him. He rejects all reality.
c. He hates God, refuses to see all things as in relation to God, and therefore really knows nothing.
21. Covenant breaker. As soon as anything appears good to him he will break any bond.
22. Without natural affection.
a. Natural affection is also found among animals, also, to a certain extent, among plants.
b. ln itself, this natural affection has no spiritual significance.
c. But, as soon as the sinners’ evil passions come in conflict with these affections, also this natural affection will suffer shipwreck: the mother casts away her child, brothers kill each other, etc. In broader sense, wars ensue.
23. Implacable and unmerciful. They are unbending and without any pity.
C. We do well to remember that all this applies to the natural man, also to the child of God as he is by nature. This must serve us to thank the Lord for the wonderful grace which saved us from these terrible things.
VIII. Verse 32.
A. They know the judgment of God.
1. This knowledge is a knowledge of experience.
2. It is therefore not a question of what they subjectively might judge to be right, but they experience this judgment, know it to be true.
B. The content of this judgment of God.
1. “That they which commit such things are worthy of death.”
2. This judgment of God is proclaimed everywhere, because the wages of sin is death.
3. The sinner does not merely know that he dies, but also that his death is a Divine execution. However, he also knows more. He also knows that this execution is just, because God is righteous. The Holy Spirit engraves this knowledge of God’s righteousness in the sinner’s consciousness.
4. Hence, the sinner is one who, standing before the judge, continually affirms that the judge is righteous, that he is worthy to be sentenced, but nevertheless continues in his evil. Hence, he clearly shows that he hates and does not will the righteousness of God.
C. Besides, he not only does the same, but he also has pleasure in them that do them.
1. The sinner not only himself delights in sin.
2. But he also delights in those who commit it. This explains why, for example, Eve gave the fruit to Adam.
3. The sinner cannot tolerate the righteous. He hates him and will persecute him. Most clearly revealed in the rejection and crucifixion of the Christ.
4. And the culmination of this will be revealed in the antichristian world power shortly before the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ upon the clouds of heaven.
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