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Many churches and different denominations exist in the world today. These include Reformed, Baptist, Pentecostal, Roman Catholic, non-denominational, and many others. This is a massive change in the church world that started around 500 years ago. Prior to the Protestant Reformation only a few separate denominations existed, the largest of all those being the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. The Reformation completely changed that: it created hundreds of different denominations. Sadly, many of these denominations have departed from the truth of the scripture and from the true worship of Jehovah. Many so called Christian churches in the world today worship a god that they call Jesus Christ, but is not the sovereign, holy, just, and righteous Jesus Christ that the Bible teaches. Nevertheless, true churches of Jesus Christ do exist in the world today. They may be few in number, but they do exist and these churches are not just limited to the Protestant Reformed denomination.

While other true denominations exist in the world today, some may have differences in doctrine from the PRCA. So the question that will absorb this paper is: how does someone view other true churches of Jesus Christ which may have differences in doctrine from the PRCA? How are fellow Christians called to view and interact with members of those different churches? It will be found that those of other true churches must be viewed as Christians, and so they must be treated in love and humility. Yet they must also be instructed in doctrine in a polemical fashion so that they can come to a fuller understanding of the scriptures.

Before entering into arguments for this thesis, it must be stated that this is a difficult question. It is made all the more difficult by the fact that there are so many different denominations in the world today, each with its own slightly different perspective on certain issues. This makes it hard to specifically state that there is one hard and fast way to deal with those Christian of other denominations. Individuals dealing with this issue must deal with it on a case by case basis. That being said, there are general guidelines in dealing with each denomination and Christian, and this paper will examine these guidelines.

Let us first examine how we are called to view those true churches of Jesus Christ who may have differences in doctrine from the PRCA. Since this is a discussion of true churches (the definition of which is found in the Belgic Confession, Article 29) of Jesus Christ, then the members of those churches must be treated as brothers and sisters in Christ. It must be assumed that those differences of doctrine are slight and not of vital importance to the purity of true doctrine, the Bible, and the glory of God.

Differences in doctrine from the PRCA do not necessarily make one a heretic. In fact, there have been differences within the church, as the most basic study of church history shows. To list a few examples: Augustine held to the necessity of baptism for salvation. John Calvin believed that the remarriage of the innocent party was permissible. Martin Luther held to the doctrine of consubstantiation. These are certainly not teachings that the PRCA holds to be true, but that does not make the men confessing them any less Christian. It is certainly a weakness on the part of these men, but they must still be viewed as the elect children of God. So the Christian today must be careful in judging other Christians. In John 7:24 Christ commands the Pharisees to “Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (The Holy Bible: King James Version). That is the calling of every true Christian in the world today regarding those who may be different from the PRCA.

Let us now move on to examine how the Christian should guide his interactions with those of other true churches. A very crucial step in this is to examine the different doctrine that is being taught. The Christian must be like the Bereans when it comes to new doctrine: they must be cautious. As Acts 17:11 states, “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” The Christian must exercise the same cautiousness with different doctrines, but also to some degree exercise an openness of mind. Not so open that they are “carried about with every wind of doctrine,” Ephesians 4:14), but nevertheless open so that they are constantly examining themselves to be sure that they are in the faith.

A most fundamental principle that should guide the Christian’s communication with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ is love. Love is vitally important here, because other Christians may have differences in doctrine from other denominations, such as the PRCA. Differences tend to bring about anger, suspicion, concern, and ostracization of the other group. Yet all these attitudes and actions ought never to exist around Christians. The Christian has been called to love his neighbour as himself and not only his neighbour, but his enemy as well. That raises the bar infinitely high. It is the hardest thing to love one who is our enemy, the one who is different from us. Humans always get along with those who they agree with, who have similar interests, likes, dislikes, and personalities. But perhaps this one specific church has a slight difference in doctrine, and thus they can be hard to get along with. The calling of the Christian then is not to hate that church, but to show love to its members.

This love will display itself in several different aspects in the Christian. The first is that it will desire to bring them to a fuller knowledge of the truth of God’s word. It will desire to show beluevers the correct view on topics such as divorce and remarriage, the Lord’s Supper, and baptism, in order to bring them to a greater understanding of God’s word. This evangelistic desire must always be present in the interactions with those of other denominations. It was this desire in part that caused Peter to preach to the Jews in Acts 2 about the death and resurrection of the Messiah. This desire is also found in Paul’s going into the synagogues first on his missionary journeys before preaching to the Gentiles. Paul and the other disciples desired to preach to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, so that they could know the fullness of the gospel for some of these Jews were true believers in God, but who had not yet heard about the Christ. They still needed the fuller revelation of God brought to them; one finds similar circumstances quite often in other true churches of Jesus Christ.

Another example of this desire to bring a fuller understanding of the truth of God’s word is found in Paul’s rebuking Peter for emphasizing the importance of circumcision. Peter was a true child of God. However, he had weaknesses and slid into false doctrine. Paul rebuked Peter for his actions, and so the Christian is also called to rebuke those true Christians for their weaknesses regarding certain doctrines.

As a brief side note here it must be mentioned that the purpose of this sharing of the truth is not necessarily to bring all these people into the PRCA. Membership in the PRCA does not equate with being included in the covenant of God: PRCA membership is not a requisite of being a child of God. The ambition and goal should be to bring them to a greater understanding of the truth. If they desire to join the PRCA after learning of that truth, that is wonderful. But if not, they should not be rejected as not being true Christians.

All that the Christian does in regard to this topic should be done in love. This will mean that ultimately the most important desire for the Christian in bringing the fuller revelation of the word of God to another Christian will be to bring greater glory, honour, and love to Jesus Christ. A greater understanding of truth will cause the name of God to be praised more fully because that person now has a greater knowledge of God. This will only happen if this is blessed by the grace of God: only if God works in the heart of the believer will the person be caused to stop living in darkness and sin regarding some truth he has had trouble believing.

A word of caution should be included. Some people will get angry when one attempts to bring them out of their error and calls a doctrine they believe in erroneous. Some will show great hatred for that. Yet it is our calling to still love them and to dwell peaceably, as much as possible, with all men (Romans 12:18).

Also showing a fellow Christian his error in love will mean that it is done in humility. It is not done in the arrogant attitude that one has a greater understanding of the counsel and word of God. It must not be done in a haughty and prideful attitude that the one individual is more specially blessed by God than the other. It must be remembered that all saving knowledge of God is given only by the grace of God and that God out of his own grace decided to reveal that knowledge to those he did. It was not out of anything that that one person did. God could have just left that person in the absolute darkness of total depravity.

In addition, the Christian must pray. He must bring these other Christians before the Almighty, praying that they might receive the grace to be able to come to a better understanding of the truths of the word of God. God is in control of everything, even in this matter, and so the Christian must daily pray for his fellow saints. He must also pray for the grace to be able to do this heavy task. It is by no means easy to correct someone who is in error. It requires a lot of wisdom and understanding.

Finally, it must be stated that there are great dangers if the PRCA suspends all communications with those who do not agree with us on every single point of doctrine. There is the great temptation to make ourselves an island if this is done, and that leads to the mentality that the PRCA is the only true church. That is a heresy that Rome has long held to, and it would be a great sorrow if the PRCA ever claimed that.

Therefore, in conclusion, the Christian must view other true churches of Jesus Christ in love, patience, and humility. The Christian must exercise an attitude of graciousness that is one of the great qualities of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Christian must also try to lead other believers to a greater understanding of the truth of God. In this way he must be polemical. He must bring him the Bible, he must discuss it with him, and he must pray for the other believer. The only way that the Christian can ever show this amount of love and patience is by the grace of God. So this must be sought daily in order that the name of God can be glorified in every action. May that be the Christian’s desire: that God’s glory be wrought even in bringing other fellow believers to a greater understanding of Jehovah.

 

Works Cited

De Bres, Guido. “Belgic Confession of Faith.” The Confessions and the Church Order of the Protestant Reformed Churches,. United States of America: Protestant Reformed Churches of America, 2005: 23 – 80. Print.

Hanko, Herman C. Biblical Ecumenicity. Web. 25 May. 2015.

The Holy Bible: King James Version. Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009. Print.

Ursinus, Zacharias and Olevianus, Caspar. “The Heidelberg Catechism.” The Confessions and the Church Order of the Protestant Reformed Churches. United States of America: Protestant Reformed Churches of America, 2005: 82 – 140. Print.

Dear Mr. Derek Vanden Akker,

I write this letter in response to several comments you made in your letter in the March 2012 issue of the Beacon Lights. These comments largely deal with this statement of yours: “Furthermore, the Protestant Reformed Churches are to be commended not only for denying ordination to homosexuals, women, and homeschoolers, but in whole-heartedly condemning the practice in wicked, ungodly, apostate churches.”

First, I wish to state that homeschoolers are not to be included in the list of such wicked and vile sins as homosexuality and women office-bearers. These two things are clearly against the Word of God. Passages such as I Timothy 2:11–12, 15 and Romans 1 explicitly declare that homosexuality and female officebearers are against the Scriptures. However, I have never read anything in the Bible that declares homeschoolers are sinners and in error.

My other point is that it is not the teaching of the PRC that there are to be no homeschooling office-bearers or even homeschooling ministers. To make this clear I will quote liberally from the 2009 Acts of Synod.

  1. That synod uphold the position that it is the calling of everyconsistory member (ministers and elders) in the Protestant Reformed Churches to uphold Article 21 of the Church Order by word and by example.
  2. This implies:

1)  That they see to it that there are, if at all possible, good Christian schools…. This requires of the Ministers and of the Consistories to take to heart, with all their strength and their gifts, the support and the construction of Christian Schools (CRC Acts of Synod 1892, Art. 23).

2)  That where such schools are established, the consistories have a calling:

  1. a)  to inquire of those parents who do not use the established Protestant Reformed schools their reasons for not using them, and
  2. b)  to urge upon them the wisdom of fulfilling their covenant calling by educating their children together in these schools and
  3. c)  to admonish them if there is indication that they are not fulfilling the demands of the covenant to the utmost of their power in the education they provide for their children.

3)  That, therefore, where there are such schools, the officebearer must send his children to those schools unless there are valid reasons not to do so, and that such reasons are subject to the judgement of the consistory.

I would specifically like to call your attention to 3) of the last paragraph. First, notice that “where there are such schools” and “unless there are valid reason not to do so.” This shows that there are conditions when a homeschooler may and may not hold office.

Also that the PRC approves of homeschooling as a way to educate our covenant children is shown in this quotation.

Article 86

Synod proceeds with the recommendations of the committee of pre-advice.

  1. That synod uphold the decisions of Synod 2008 and Classis East by which they declared that “homeschooling falls within the area of Christian liberty.”

Ground: Since Scripture does not legislate the precise manner in which the education of covenant children should take place, covenant parents have freedom in determining the particular form in which this instruction is given.

  1. One aspect of Christian liberty is that the conscience is not bound by the doctrines and commandments of men – the believer may do what God’s law does not forbid, and refrain from whatever God’s law does not require. In matters not legislated by God’s law, he has the freedom to serve the Lord according to the dictates of his conscience (James 4:12; Romans 14:4; Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 20:2).
  2. Although the Christian day schools of Article 21 are rooted in and are proper applications of biblical principles, they are not the only legitimate way of instructing children according to the demands of the covenant.
  3. Thus, homeschooling can also be a legitimate form of education for some parents, and in some instances is the best option available.

Finally, I wish to state that only where Christian day schools exist, is an officebearer bound to send his children to that school. The later part of Article 86 makes this clear, because an officebearer is called to be a good and uplifting example to the rest of the congregation.

Where such schools are established, each consistory member—unless there are special circumstances—must send his children to these Christian schools that he is called to promote. He is called to be an example (I Cor. 4:16; 11:1; Phil. 3:17; II Thess. 3:7).

Therefore, in summary I reprove you for including homeschoolers with such heinous sins as homosexuality and female officebearers. Also, I correct you for wrongly stating the position of the PRC regarding the matter of homeschooling officebearers.

Sincerely,
Stephen Mulder

Although this letter is addressed to Derek Vanden Akker and not to the editor, I acquiesced to Stephen Mulder’s request to publish his missive, and the Letters rubric seemed as good a place as any. Mr. Mulder’s letter concludes the discussion concerning home schooling—Editor.

Judging is condemned by many Christians today as being unbiblical and not in accordance with the teachings of Christ. This has led to many adverse effects on the church. The lack of judging and church discipline has led to the church’s often looking just like the world, with its members dwelling in all kinds of sins. Abortion, divorce, fornication, Sabbath desecration, and blasphemy are often just as prevalent among those confessing the name of Christ in the world. This essay will reply against the growing trend of churches and church members crying “do not judge me” by proving that judging is required and even absolutely necessary for the Christian to practice. To do this, it will consider three points. First, it will prove that the Christian may judge. Second, it will describe in what manner the Christian may judge. Finally, it will discuss the purpose of judging.

Let us first prove that the Christian may judge. Proper judging is certainly a righteous act for God is called throughout Scripture a judge. In Hebrews 12:23, God is called the “judge of all”[1] and in Isaiah 33:22, Jehovah is called “our [Zion’s] judge.”[2]  Since God is perfectly righteous and holy (a picture of that infinite holiness is seen in Isaiah 6), he cannot perform any unrighteous or unholy act. Therefore, judging cannot be evil of itself, since God is perfectly righteous and holy, and he does judge and issue judgment.

Further, that judging is not just an act that God may perform, but that man is allowed to judge as well as is made apparent by the prophets in the Old Testament. They acted as God’s spokesmen to lead the people back to the true worship of Jehovah.  This often meant harsh rebukes for the people living in sin, as is the case when Nathan appeared before David to call him to repent of his sin of adultery with Bathsheba and his murder of Uriah. Jonah had to call the Ninevites to repentance from their evil sins, so that God would not destroy them. Isaiah is so strong in his judgment of the people of Israel that he refers to them as the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, as is apparent from Isaiah 1:10, “Hear the word of the Lord, ye rulers of Sodom; Give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah” (Isa.1:10). These are just a few examples of men judging others in the Old Testament.

In the New Testament the preachers of the gospel take on the same role as the prophets in the Old Testament. It is their duty to bring the gospel to all people, and the gospel message includes the call to repentance. Man needs to be called to repentance from the many sins that he commits. Therefore the preacher needs to judge the acts of men and determine from the scriptures what is sinful in the eyes of God. In 1 John 1 John mentions numerous sins, such as dwelling in darkness and wrongly boasting, “I have no sin.” After John judges these and various other sins, he comes to the comforting statement in 1 John 2:1, “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous (1 John 2:1).” In order to be advocated by Jesus Christ, it is necessary for the Christian to know that he is a sinner and that he must confess his sin to God. The Christian knows he is a sinner by the judging of the preacher. Thus taking the apostle John as our example today, it is necessary for the salvation of the elect that preachers judge and call men to repentance.

Nor is judging limited to the preachers.Judging must be practiced by every believer, as is apparent from the words of Christ in Matthew 18:15, “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother (Matt. 18:15).” To obey this command of Christ requires judging and holding the actions of others in light of the law of God. The believer must have a discerning heart to determine what is sinful and wicked in the eyes of the Lord. The believer must have the desire to flee all unrighteousness in order to show true thankfulness to God for his work of salvation. But there is a certain manner in which the Christian must judge, as will be explained in the next paragraphs.

An important aspect of judging is that the Christian will first judge himself before he judges others. This was a problem in the days of Christ, and therefore he says in Matthew 7:1–5, “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”  Christ is not condemning judging here, but is rather commanding it. Christ directly commands us to pull that beam, that sin, out of our own eye, before attempting to pull the mote out of our brother’s eye. Yet the Christian is still to remove that mote from his brother’s eye. Calvin shows in his commentary on Matthew that it is not judging here being condemned but the eagerness to judge others. He says, “This vice [unbiblical judging] is attended by some strange enjoyment: for there is hardly any person who is not tickled with the desire of inquiring into other people’s faults. . . . This depraved eagerness for biting, censuring, and slandering, is restrained by Christ, when he says, Judge not. It is not necessary that believers should become blind, and perceive nothing, but only that they should refrain from an undue eagerness to judge: for otherwise the proper bounds of rigour will be exceeded by every man who desires to pass sentence on his brethren.”[3] The self-restraint not to judge others and rather to look on our own sins proceeds only from the grace of God. Man cannot do this in his own strength, for he constantly desires to think himself better than others, and does not desire to even think of himself as a sinner.

Further, judging ourselves is so necessary that the apostle Paul says that without that personal examination, the Christian stands in danger of being condemned with the world. He says in 1 Corinthians 11:28–32, “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. As Charles Hodge writes concerning this passage: “For, if we judge ourselves, that is, if we examine ourselves…and prepare ourselves for the Lord’s table, we should not be judged, i.e. thus afflicted. It is because we do not sit in judgment on ourselves, that God judges us.”[4] Thus, the Christian must judge himself, lest he stand in danger of the judgment of God.

The Christian must also judge in humility. This is one of the most important truths of Biblical judging. It is only in the way of humility that the Christian realizes, by the grace of God, that all men are sinners and are deserving of the cup of God’s wrath against sin. The Christian realizes that he has been graciously delivered from that state of total depravity, but at the same time realizes that he is still a creature with many sins and faults. Therefore he recognizes and knows the sinful flesh of others and judges humbly with the knowledge that he can fall into the exact same sin.

Further instruction on judging is found in Zechariah 7:9: “Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment, And shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother.” Immediately before this verse, Zechariah is telling the Israelites that their fastings were not directed to God, but to themselves. They were concerned only with themselves, and thus God has this admonition for them. They are to execute true judgment that does not seek the profit of oneself or the harm of the neighbour, but the truth. The way to seek that true judgment is in showing “mercy and compassions every man to his brother.” An example of this mercy and compassion is in the proceeding verse, “And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; And let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart” (v. 10). This is a very strong argument for proper biblical judging. Proper biblical judging is done in mercy and compassion, without the imagining of evil or sin in the brother or sister. Therefore the Christian must not be a gossip, for in doing so he takes pleasure in hearing and imagining the evil of others.

Nor must the Christian judge rashly, for in doing so, he violates the ninth commandment and is guilty of thinking evil of his neighbor. This applies to those who gossip. Gossiping often results in rash judgment on the part of the person who hears only one side of the story and is left to determine the truth just from that one side. Thus the Christian must avoid such situations where rash judgments occur, lest he sin. As the Heidelberg Catechism puts it in stating what the requirements of the ninth commandment are, “that I do not judge, nor join in condemning any man rashly or unheard; but that I avoid all sorts of lies and deceit as the proper works of the devil, unless I would bring down upon me the heavy wrath of God.”[5] Therefore the Christian must not only avoid rash judgment, but also situations where that is bound to occur.

Finally, the purpose of judging should always be the salvation of the brother or sister dwelling in sin. The purpose is not that the one who judges be esteemed and puffed up with pride for his boldness and supposed superior godliness. That is not the way of humility that the Bible teaches. An example of proper motive in judging is found in Peter’s sermon after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.  After Peter accuses and judges the Jews for slaying Christ by their wicked hands, they were “pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:37–38. The beautiful purpose of judging is that men might be drawn to God and receive salvation through the suffering of Jesus Christ. This glorious purpose of judging is further demonstrated by Paul’s words to the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 5:5. Here Paul is rebuking the church for allowing a man living in adultery to dwell in their midst. He calls them to “deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” Harsh measures and harsh words need to be spoken to the man dwelling in sin, but the purpose is and must always be the salvation of God’s people.

In conclusion, the Christian certainly must judge, for to do otherwise is to be in rebellion against the word of God. The Christian must judge to determine what is right and wrong in relation to the law of God. But he must also rebuke brothers and sisters for living in sin. The Biblical and God-glorifying method of judging is found in humility. It is only in the way of humility that God can be glorified by our judging. Prideful judging glorifies and exults the man who is judging, throwing his works high above everybody else. But the man who judges humbly first examines himself as sinner, and then proceeds to rebuke the sinner, all the time recognizing that he is by nature a totally depraved sinner saved by the grace of God. That is the biblical and God-honoring way to judge.

[1] The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Hebrews 12:23

[2] Isaiah 33:22

[3] John Calvin, Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke, vol. 1, ed. William Pringle (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 346.

[4] Charles Hodge, An Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1980), 234

[5] Heidelberg Catechism in The Confessions and the Church Order of the Protestant Reformed Churches (United States of America: Protestant Reformed Churches in America, 2005), 133

Capital punishment is the execution of a civilian by the state for some crime that the civilian has committed. Normally capital punishment is the punishment given to someone who has broken the sixth commandment, as found in Exodus 20:13 and Deuteronomy 5:17: “Thou shalt not kill.” The purpose of this commandment is “the preservation of the life and health of the body, and so of the safety both of ourselves and of others.”[1]

Capital punishment is a very controversial subject in human society today. There are several reasons for this. First, society tends to establish its teaching on emotions and feelings rather than basing and grounding its beliefs firmly on the rock of truth. In addition, the world has a mistaken idea about justice. The very first definition of justice that the Encarta Dictionary: English (North America) has is this: “1. fairness; fairness or reasonableness, especially in the way people are treated or decisions are made.” However, for reasons that will be explained in this paper, this is an erroneous definition. But the chief and main reason for this antagonistic feeling for capital punishment is because the world has forsaken God and his word; they are no longer considered guidelines for the making of laws.

Therefore Christians, in opposition to the world, must know whether or not capital punishment is something to be upheld by them. They must know what is th­eir duty concerning justice and capital punishment! This is what will be looked at in this paper.

First, let us understand what is a proper definition of justice, because a proper understanding of justice will affect our ideas about capital punishment. Plato was very close when he stated in his Republic that justice was doing one’s duty.[2] However, Charles Hodge’s definition hits closer to the mark: “The word justice or righteousness . . . means rightness, that which satisfies the demands of rectitude or law . . . .”[3] Further, giving an example of how a judge should act, Hodge describes God as judge, “He is impartial and uniform in their execution [the execution of laws, SM]. As a judge he renders unto every man according to his works. He neither condemns the innocent nor clears the guilty, neither does he ever punish with undue severity.”[4] Therefore, according to this author justice is that which fulfils the demands of the law. It is not being fair or reasonable. It is doing what the law requires of us and if it is not kept, it is the proper execution of punishment by the judge.

Since God himself is perfectly righteous, that means that whatever He orders is just. Obeying him means that we are acting according to justice. As will be shown in the next several paragraphs God orders us in his word to use and practice capital punishment. This means that when capital punishment is practiced properly, we act justly.

Let us now move onto a topic that deals more directly with capital punishment, that is, proving that capital punishment is a Biblical concept. The first promotion of capital punishment in the Bible is in Genesis 9:6: “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” John Calvin expresses the idea of this verse in his commentary by stating, “. . . but since they bear the image of God engraven on them, he deems himself violated in their person.”[5] Matthew Henry in his commentary further explains the idea: “When God requires the life of a man from him who took it away unjustly, the murderer cannot render that, and therefore must render his own in lieu of it.”[6] The combined idea of these commentaries is that since man is created in the image of God, his life is a very precious thing. Thus if someone commits murder, the murderer cannot give that life back, so his life is required out of justice. This idea makes capital punishment just!

Another passage that promotes capital punishment is Romans 13:4, “For he [the magistrate, SM] is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” This verse clearly promotes capital punishment. The magistrate does not bear the sword in vain against those who do evil. He may and must use it to punish criminals. Notice also that the magistrate acts in the place of God to execute temporal judgement. That is why he is called the minister of God. Thus there are texts that actively promote and command the use of this punishment. The Christian who adheres to the concept of Sola Scriptura (using the Bible as the only rule of faith) must therefore promote this method of punishment.

Nevertheless, there are various objections to the concept of capital punishment. An objection that is often raised is along the idea of Romans 12:19, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” The reasoning behind this protestation is that since vengeance is of the Lord, capital punishment is not proper for the follower of Christ to practice. In answer to that, it must be shown what the position of the magistrate is. It has already been shown in Romans 13:4 that he is the minister of God. Being the minister of God, he acts in the place of God. God has placed him in this position by his providential hand. It is his duty to make sure that proper justice is done and meted out. It must also be noted here that this position differs radically from the locus of the individual. An individual may not avenge himself because he is not in an area of authority and has not been placed by God in authority. Since he is not in authority, God has not given him the right and responsibility to deliver justice to the wicked. That alone is the charge of the authorities. It is the duty of the individual to love his neighbor.  Therefore the Biblical answer to this objection is that the magistrate acts on earth in the position of God. God delivers just punishment to evildoers, both in this life and eternally. Therefore the magistrate may deliver just punishment to evildoers.

Another objection that is on somewhat the same foundation as the last objection, is this: Christ has commanded us not to reward evil for evil, as Matthew 5:38– 39 states: “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Our response to this is that this text speaks of the individual acting by himself, to punish whoever has done evil to him. The individual may not execute judgement. That is the responsibility of the courts and the magistrates. There are several reasons for saying this. First, Christ in a large portion of his sermon on the mount has been refuting erroneous misunderstandings of the law. Thus when Christ says things like, “ye have heard that it has been said of them of old time,” he is refuting the misconceptions of the law. Second, the Jews were misinterpreting texts such as Leviticus 24:17: “And he that killeth any man shall surely be put to death.” They thought this spoke of personal vengeance. Therefore, Christ is not destroying the just law of retribution. He is rebuking the Jews for their acts of private vengeance. Also it must be remembered that God is a just God; he would not destroy justice. If he did, then there would be no need for Christ to have made satisfaction for all the sins of the elect on the cross.

A common question that comes up when capital punishment is discussed in accordance with the Bible is why Cain was not killed for killing Abel. John Calvin probably has the best answer when he writes on Genesis 4:15: “. . . nothing was granted to Cain for the sake of favouring him; but for the sake of opposing, in future, cruelty and unjust violence. And therefore Moses now says that a mark was set upon Cain, which should strike terror into all; because they might see, as in a mirror, the tremendous judgement of God against bloody men.”[7] And further, speaking concerning Genesis 4:24: “God had intended that Cain should be a horrible example to warn others against the commission of murder; and for this end had marked him a shameful stigma. Yet lest anyone should imitate his crime, he declared whosoever killed him should be punished with sevenfold severity.”[8] Thus, capital punishment was not used on Cain, but a mark was given him. This mark was an example to man of the horrible punishment that would await him who followed Cain’s example.

Yet another objection to this principle is that the possibility of error is very large when capital punishment is used and there is no way to correct the mistake after the person has been killed. To answer that, God still demands that capital punishment be used. Let us turn to a pre-meditated miscarriage of capital punishment found in the Bible. In 1 Kings 21 there is the story of how Ahab desired the vineyard of Naboth. Jezebel ordered Naboth to be tried according to the testimony of false witnesses who said he blasphemed God and the king. For this blasphemy Naboth was put to death and Ahab gained possession of the vineyard. The point behind this passage is that although there are still blunders (and sometimes even deliberate blunders), God still commands the use of this just punishment. This still makes it a terrible thing when the wrong person is killed, but that should not persuade us from using what God has commanded us to use! Reverend Herman Hoeksema puts it this way: “And no sentimental reasons, or false humanitarian motives, can ever excuse for disobeying the command of God.”[9]

It still is a horrible thing when the wrong person is killed. That is why the magistrate must always be certain when condemning someone to capital punishment. It is his calling to make sure the sentence is just. God severely punished Jezebel and Ahab for their unjust act. Ahab himself was killed in battle by the Syrians (that itself was a punishment from God), but 2 Kings 9:24–26 tells us how Jehu killed Jehoram, Ahab’s son: “And Jehu drew a bow with his full strength, and smote Jehoram between his arms, and the arrow went out at his heart, and he sunk down in his chariot. Then said Jehu to Bidkar his captain, Take up, and cast him in the portion of the field of Naboth the Jezreelite: for remember how that, when I and thou rode together after Ahab his father, the LORD laid this burden upon him; Surely I have seen yesterday the blood of Naboth, and the blood of his sons, saith the LORD; and I will requite thee in this plat, saith the LORD. Now therefore take and cast him into the plat of ground, according to the word of the LORD.” Later, Jezebel was thrown from her palace window and devoured by dogs. This clearly shows that God does not allow unjust actions to go unpunished.

It must also be stated that the executioner is not responsible when the wrong person is put to death. The responsibility ultimately lies with the magistrate who ordered his death. “Nor is the hangman, who executes the deed, responsible to God for it. Even when he personally should judge that in a certain case justice miscarried, and that the person whom he is called to deprive of his life was not guilty of murder, not he, but the judge, the magistrate, is responsible before God for the execution of capital punishment.”[10]

One last objection to the concept of capital punishment is that the murderer is deprived of his most basic human right, that is, the right to life. This objection, however, does not stand logically, for it is a non sequitur. If the murderer is so concerned about his own life and the preservation of it, he should have thought twice about killing a fellow human being, who has just as much right to life as the murderer.

In closing, capital punishment is a Biblical and just concept. Christians must promote it if they have any desire of following the Bible. Humanitarian and supposed Biblical objections do not stand with the whole teaching of Scripture. Murderers must be punished justly!

 

Bibliography

  1. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Hendrickson Publishers Inc., 2008)
  2. John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries Volume I Genesis, (Baker Books, 2003)
  3. Herman Hoeksema, Love Thy Neighbour For God’s Sake: An Exposition of the Heidelberg Catechism (B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1955)
  4. Ursinus, Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1852)
  5. King James Version Bible
  6. Plato, Republic (http://www.wisdomhomeschooling.com/online/Politics/Republic4.htm)
  7. Matthew Henry, Commentary on Genesis http://www.ccel.org/ccel/henry/mhc1.Gen.x.html) accessed May 28, 2012
  8. Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology (Baker Book House Company, 1988)

[1]Quoted from Ursinus, Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1852), 583

 

[2]Plato, Republic Book IV (http://www.wisdomhomeschooling.com/online/Politics/Republic4.htm)

 

[3]Quoted from Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, (Baker Book House Company, 1988), 153

 

[4]Ibid, 153–154

 

[5]Quoted from John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries Volume I Genesis, (Baker Books, 2003), 295

 

[6]Quoted from Matthew Henry Commentary on Genesis, (http://www.ccel.org/ccel/henry/mhc1.Gen.x.html) accessed May 28, 2012.

 

[7]John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries Volume I Genesis, (Baker Books 2003), 214

[8]Ibid, 222

[9]Quoted from Herman Hoeksema, Love Thy Neighbour For God’s Sake (B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1955), 52

 

[10]Ibid

 

In our last two articles concerning the Arminian’s doctrine of freewill, we dealt with how God is completely sovereign over the will of man and how man’s will is completely depraved. This article will be on the fact that God has predestinated men from before the foundation of the world, some to eternal suffering in hell, and some to eternal glory in heaven. Certain Arminians would agree that God has predestinated men, but this predestination is a conditional predestination that is dependent upon the will of man. This is contrary to what the Bible teaches concerning the predestination of mankind, as will be proven from the story of Jacob and Esau, as well as other verses that state that God has predestinated man. This Arminian teaching of man’s will is also against the reformed teaching of predestination. Men at the Synod of Dordt fought for unconditional predestination. Our creed developed out of that battle. Hence, let us look at the argument the Arminians pose against predestination.

Perhaps the clearest story in Scripture concerning unconditional predestination is that of Jacob and Esau. This story is found in Genesis 25:21 –23, which states this, “And Isaac entreated the Lord for his wife, because she was barren: and the Lord was entreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived. And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to inquire of the Lord. And the Lord said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.” This difference between Jacob and Esau was appointed by God and revealed to Rebekah before these two children were born. In eternity past, God had already decreed that the younger would serve the older of the twins and therefore this cannot be a matter of their own wills. Rather, it shows that predestination was not conditioned upon the choices of man. God predestinated these facts from before the foundation of the world, (Ephesians 1:4 –6) and no choice of man can change what the sovereign God has decreed. However, some would go as far as to argue that this was just the case in the Old Testament, but the Apostle Paul in Romans 9:11 –13, makes it clear that this is the case in the New Testament as well. “For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth; It was said unto her, the elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” Before they had even done any good or evil, God had predestinated one to salvation and one to damnation. This was not based upon their own freewill, but on the will of God alone. God predestinated that one would love God and one would hate God. It was not a matter of their wills; God was completely sovereign in his predestination of these two men, and is sovereign in his predestination of the rest of the human race. In addition, Ephesians 1:11 shows us that God has predestinated according to his own will, not man’s, “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” God chose us from before the creation of the world. No will of man is able to change what God has sovereignly predestinated. Thus, unconditional predestination that is not based upon the choice of man is a very concise doctrine of holy Scriptures. It is a grave error when Arminians say that the will of man determines predestination.

The Canons of Dordt was a National Synod held from the year 1618–1619 in Dordrecht by the Dutch Reformed Church. It was assembled to settle a controversy over Arminianism. Thus, it has a whole head on the subject of predestination. Article 7, of the first head, makes it clear that God has unconditionally predestinated the elect unto eternal salvation.

Election is the unchangeable purpose of God (it cannot be conditioned or controlled by the will of man), whereby, before the foundation of the world, he hath out of mere grace, according to the sovereign good pleasure of his own will (God’s will, not man’s), chosen, from the whole human race, which had fallen through their own fault, from their primitive state of rectitude, into sin and destruction, a certain number of persons to redemption in Christ, whom he from eternity appointed the Mediator and Head of the elect, and the foundation of Salvation. This elect number, though by nature neither better nor more deserving than others, but with them involved in one common misery, God hath decreed to give to Christ, to be saved by him, and effectually to call and draw them to his communion by his Word and Spirit, to bestow upon them true faith, justification and sanctification; and having powerfully preserved them in the fellowship of his Son, finally, to glorify them for the demonstration of his mercy, and for the praise of his glorious grace.

From this statement it ought to be obvious that God’s election of some to Christ and salvation, is not dependent upon the will of man. Also, Article 9, of the first head, clearly shows that this election is not based upon our own will, but solely upon the will of God.

This election was not founded upon foreseen faith (not based upon our own faith or freewill), and the obedience of faith, holiness, or any other good quality of disposition in man, as the pre-requisite, cause or condition on which it depended; but men are chosen to faith and to the obedience of faith, holiness, etc., therefore election is the fountain of every saving good; from which proceed faith, holiness, and the other gifts of salvation, and finally eternal life itself, as its fruits and effects, according to that of the apostle: “He hath chosen us (not because we were) but that we should be holy, and without blame, before him in love,” Ephesians 1:4.

Thus, it is because God has predestinated us, that we are elect, not of our own freewill. In addition, God chose us not because of our faith, or our acceptance of God; rather he chose us so that we would have faith, given to us by the Holy Spirit. Thus, the kind of predestination that is taught by our reformed confession is an unconditional predestination that is not based upon the will of man. The Arminian doctrine of conditional predestination is a devil’s doctrine that must be cast off.

Upon reading this, we must realize that God has predestinated all men and their choices. All that men do, and all things that happen are because God has predestined them to happen. God has predestinated some men to eternal glory and fellowship with God in heaven. Yet, others he has predestinated to eternal damnation in hell. Man’s will has no power over this predestination, God’s will is sovereign. Man has no freewill, it is utterly impossible for man to have freewill. The Arminian doctrine of freewill is in complete contrast to what Scripture teaches. It has no basis in a proper exegesis of Scripture and is a corrupt doctrine; it is something that the antichrist teaches. Therefore, let us have no part with the error of freewill, because it is not founded upon Scripture.

 

In our last article concerning freewill, we dealt with several repudiations of this erroneous doctrine. In this article, we will be dealing with an argument the Arminians have against the total sovereignty of God. Many Christian Churches teach Arminianism today, and thus, it is a very dangerous doctrine for us and our young people, since it is so popular. Saved by Grace by Ronald Cammenga and Ronald Hanko says this concerning Arminians “The principal teaching of Arminianism is that man has a freewill.”[7] Their teaching of freewill is one of the grave dangers of the Arminians, because they say man can accept God by himself. A few denominations that call themselves reformed, that teach the doctrine of Arminianism in some form or another are the United Reformed Church, Christian Reformed Church, and the Canadian Reformed Church. The argument the Arminians pose against the Calvinistic teaching of God’s total sovereignty is that God is sovereign over creation, but man’s will is exempted from that sovereignty. That being said let us take a closer look at this argument.

The first thing that we must notice from this argument is that it is not biblically based. There are many verses in Scripture that clearly state God is in complete control over man’s will. Indeed, examples can be found all over Scripture of God hardening the wicked. For example, God hardened the heart of Pharaoh so that he would not let the people of Israel depart from Egypt. In Exodus 7:3, we read “And I (speaking of God) will harden Pharaoh’s heart.” To point out another example, in Deuteronomy 2:30, we read of how God hardened the heart of Sihon, king of Heshbon. “But Sihon king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him: for the Lord thy God hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate, that he might deliver him into thy hand, as appeareth this day.” To further prove that God is sovereign over all things, including man’s sin we must look at Isaiah 63:17, “O Lord, why hast thou made us to err from thy ways, and hardened our heart from thy fear? Return for thy servants’ sake, the tribes of thine inheritance.” It is the sovereign will of God working behind man’s sin. That is how sovereign God is! Yet another verse also proves this fact; in Romans 9:18, we read, “Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.” Thus, it is a biblical fact that God is sovereign over creation, contrary to what the man made doctrine of Arminianism teach.

The second thing we must realize is that the doctrine of freewill is not based on the creeds, which we confess and believe. We will first look at what the Belgic Confession says of God’s sovereignty. In Article 13, we read this, “We believe that the same God, after he had created all things, did not forsake them, or give them up to fortune or chance, but that he rules and governs them according to his holy will, so that nothing happens in this world without his appointment.” Nothing can happen in all of creation, including whether or not man can accept God by his own will, without God willing it to happen. Therefore, the Arminians are wrong when they say that man by his own determinate will can accept God. In the Heidelberg Catechism, we also read of how God is sovereign over creation. We find in Lord’s Day 10, Question and Answer 27, that God upholds all, by his divine providence. “What dost thou mean by the providence of God? Answer. The almighty and everywhere present power of God; whereby, as it were by His hand, He upholds and governs heaven, earth, and all creatures; so that herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, meat and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, yea, and all things come, not by chance, but by His fatherly hand.” God is sovereign over all creatures and nothing happens by chance as Lord’s Day 10 states. Therefore, as the Belgic Confession and heidelberg Catechism prove, God is sovereign over all creation and thus, must be sovereign over man’s will as well. From this, we can conclude that the Arminian doctrine of freewill is completely against Scripture and we must cast it off by God’s grace as a dirty rag.

Now there are several objections to the doctrine of God’s complete sovereignty. Some would say, if God is sovereign, he is the author of sin. To those who say this, we must reply biblically; James 1:13 –14, states this, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.” Man is tempted by his own sinful nature, but God still sovereignly guides his sin as we stated already above in a preceding paragraph. God does not force man to sin, but he does it by his own sinful nature. Also, we must remember that God is a holy God, knowing no sin. Isaiah 6:3 states this about the holiness of God: “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.” God can do no sin, because he in infinitely holy. Therefore, God is not the author of sin, although he still sovereignly guides man in his sinful deeds.

Another objection to the sovereignty of God is that if God is sovereign, man is not responsible for his sin. This is not true, for when Christ went to the cross it was sovereignly determined by God, but the wicked men who crucified him are responsible for it. We read this in Acts 2:23, which says, “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.” The wicked men who crucified Christ are responsible for killing Christ, not God. Also, the apostle Paul deals with this objection in Romans 9: 19 –20, by saying “Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?” This verse clearly proves that God is not responsible for man’s sin, but man is responsible for his own actions. When man sins, he must not blame God for his sin, for he himself is responsible. In addition, God always sovereignly guides the sinner in such a way, so that he is always responsible for his own actions. Therefore, this argument does not stand up to a true analyze of Scripture.

As we have shown in this article, God is totally sovereign, even over man’s will. This is biblically based for God hardens man’s heart. Both the Heidelberg Catechism and Belgic Confession also prove this truth. In addition, we have shown that the objections, which many men would bring up against God’s total sovereignty, are not founded upon the pages of Scripture. Rather, they are just man’s invention. Thus, God is completely sovereign over the whole creation, including man’s will and therefore, we must declare the Arminian doctrine to be a heresy.

In spite of the fact that the doctrine of free will is against Scripture, many churches, including the Roman Catholic Church believe that this doctrine is true. This is not to say that we do not believe that man has a will; man does have a will, but it is sovereignly controlled by God’s will. The doctrine of free will is in error for three reasons: that it denies the fact that God is completely sovereign over his creation, secondly, that man is totally depraved, and lastly, that God has predestinated us. Thus, let us look at why free will is against Scripture.

In the first place, God is completely sovereign over his creation. The doctrine of free will denies this fact by saying that man has control over himself and whom he believes in. To prove that this belief is false and, that God is in control of even the smallest matters of creation, we must go to Matthew 10:29-30: “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.’’ Isaiah goes even farther, to state that God causes men to execute his counsel. “Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it’’ (Isa. 46:9-11). This verse obviously states that whatever God has willed and counselled, will happen. Man cannot change the will of God; God has complete power over the will of man. Lastly, God has created the whole universe as we read in Genesis 1, and therefore he must be in control of it. Since God is in complete control of his creation, nothing can happen without him willing it to happen.

Secondly, man is completely and utterly depraved. Humans can do no good at all, as Psalm 14 tells us “The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.’’ Mankind is so corrupt, that the psalmist describes us as being filthy with sin. We do not even seek after God; that is how utterly depraved we are. This is not just a belief of the Old Testament church, but of the New Testament church as well, as Romans 3:10-12 makes clear. In addition, apart from Christ we are all the servants of sin, only doing wickedness and evil. John 8:34 makes this clear: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.’’ We are all servants of sin doing no good. Thus, we are completely depraved, and cannot accept God by ourselves.

Lastly, Scripture makes it clear that God has predestinated man and is in control of man’s salvation. In Ephesians 1:4-6 we read that God has predestinated man before the foundation of the world. “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: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.’’ This is a very clear verse stating that God has predestinated his people unto Christ, by the pleasure of his own will. It is not man who decides to accept God, but God works in us by his Holy Spirit so that we believe. In Romans 9:21, 22, we read that God also has power over who is saved and damned. “Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction.’’ As the earthly potter has power over the clay, so God has the power to save some men by his grace and to damn others. Finally, we only believe in Christ, because God grants us the grace and works in us as Ephesians 1:19 tells us. It is of God’s grace and mercy to us that we believe, not of our own free will.

As we have shown, free will is not a true doctrine of Scripture. An examination of Scripture clearly shows that free will is a heresy. First, God is in complete power over his creation, he controls even the most minute details. Secondly, man is so depraved that he cannot even do the slightest good. He does not even seek after God. Lastly, the Bible states that God has power over man like a potter has power over clay; he can save some by his grace and damn others. Therefore, God works in us, so that we believe. By ourselves, we would never even accept God because of our depravity, but the grace of God works in us, so that we believe. The beauty of the doctrine of predestination is that we do not have to do anything for our salvation, but it is all of the grace of God. Therefore, the doctrine of free will is not a true doctrine of Scripture, but something man invented, so that he could save himself.

Many people have trouble following Matthew 18 in the PRC denomination and a good portion of that problem is with young people. This is obvious from the April 2010 Beacon Lights article entitled ‘’Who are We Known As?’’ by Ryan Kregel, where it says that not only are there party houses in the PRC denomination but there are known party houses. The fact that there are known party houses implies that people are not reproving the sinning brethren. Christ shows us in Matthew 18:15–17 how to properly reprove those that are sinning. This must be done humbly, with the Word of God.

It is of the utmost importance to take the Word of God with us when we reprove the brother. This is important for several reasons. The first is because it is the standard that God has commanded us to obey and to not turn from. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path’’ (Psalm 119:105). Secondly, we must take the Word of God with us because it will either save or curse the person who has sinned. It curses the person who has sinned if they do not heed the Word but turn from it. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord’’ (Romans 6:23). For the people of Chorazin and Bethsaida heard the Word of God yet they did not heed it, therefore Christ says in Luke 10:14: “But it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment, than for you.’’ This is the importance of heeding the Word of God! The Word saves because it is the word of the everlasting God “that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life’’ (John 3:16). Thus, these reasons show that taking the Word of God is important when we show a brother that he has sinned.

Another important thing to remember when we go to a sinning brother is that we must do it humbly and must not act better than the person who has sinned. For we all have the same sinful nature that we inherited from Adam. How quickly we forget this in the prideful world that we live in! Also, if we do go pridefully we will most likely do more damage then good. It will cause the sinner to think that you are just a person who likes to think they know better than everyone else.

We must go alone for the first several times and must show the brother his/her sin is against what God has commanded in his Word. Thus, since we are commanded to go alone this forbids any gossiping of what so and so did, but we must speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). If the brother who has sinned repents then we gain a brother to Christ, but if the sinner does not repent, we are commanded to take one or two witnesses with us to urge the brother to repent. If the sinning brother does not repent, we are commanded to put the matter before the elders of the church. Therefore, it is our Christian duty to not only reprove the brother, but, if he persists in his sin to put him before the elders.

Now that we have dealt with how to properly follow Matthew 18, it is our intention to urge you to actually do it. As we have stated above, young people seem not to follow what Christ has commanded us to do in Matthew 18. This is most likely a result from peer pressure. Usually being different from everyone else is not cool, but we are commanded in the Word of God to be pilgrims and strangers in this world and not to be afraid if men revile us. We must not succumb to peer pressure, but must obey God rather than man. To encourage you fellow young people to do this we will show you several examples of Godly men who stood up against men to defend the Word of God. Examples go from Noah who built the ark while men mocked him, to Elijah on Mount Carmel, to the apostle Paul on his missionary journeys, to John Calvin against the Roman Catholic Church, and lastly to Rev. Herman Hoeksema against the CRC concerning common grace. Although these are just a few examples of men who did not succumb to peer pressure, but obeyed God rather than men we hope this urges you not to be afraid of not being cool; instead, to be God fearing rather than man fearing.

As hard as it is to obey this command there are many benefits in doing this. The first thing that can come out of following Matthew 18 is that God will use you as a means to save his lost sheep. Secondly, if the person is really a child of God then it will strengthen the love of the brethren. It does this by showing you love the brother and care about his spiritual health. Lastly, by following Matthew 18 because you love God and your neighbour it will strengthen your faith because love is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23) “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.’’ The fruit of the Spirit is one of the ways you know if your faith in God is a true faith, because the wicked will not have these attributes in their hearts, but only the believer will.

Finally, we must bring up the point that we cannot do this of ourselves but it is the work of God in the heart of the believer. We would not even want to obey this command if God had not put his Holy Spirit in our hearts. Since we are all weak and born in sin, we must ask God to grant us the grace to obey the Word of Christ. In addition, we must ask God to bless our work so that it is not in vain, but so that it works in the heart of the sinner true repentance. Lastly, we must trust in God alone to cause the sinner repentance, for what can we do of ourselves being all weak creatures of the dust. Therefore, let us all obey this command through Christ that strengthens us.

The Christian is placed in many different circumstances while on this earth. Some are characterized by hardships and trials, and others are full of joy and peace. How should the Christian respond? Throughout the Bible there are numerous times where God’s people sang in response to their various circumstances. Singing in response to God’s ordering […]

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The book of Proverbs was written by King Solomon to his young adult son. Solomon’s purpose in writing Proverbs was “that the generation to come might know them [God’s wonderful works]…that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments” (Ps. 78:6–7). Throughout the book, Solomon […]

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The group of churches that John writes to in this trio of epistles had recently experienced a split because of doctrinal controversy. We do not know the exact content of the error that these false teachers were spreading, but it is apparent from John’s writing that their teaching somehow denied the truth of the incarnation—that […]

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Jael: An Example of Christian Warfare

This article was originally presented as a speech at a Protestant Reformed mini convention held at Quaker Haven Camp in August 2021. Jael lived during the era of the judges. Deborah the prophetess was the judge who served Israel at the time of Jael. During this time, the Canaanites under the rule of king Jabin […]

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Indiana Mini Convention Review 2021

One of this year’s “mini conventions” was hosted by Grace and Grandville Protestant Reformed Churches at Quaker Haven Camp. Located just over two hours away in northern Indiana, the camp was a perfect fit for the 120 kids and 15 chaperones who attended. A total of twelve different churches were represented: Byron Center, Faith, First […]

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Editorial, November 2021: Catechism Season

At the point that this edition of Beacon Lights arrives in the homes of our subscribers, most young people in the Protestant Reformed Churches will have been sitting under the catechism instruction of their pastor or elders for more than a month. If our readers are honest, that observation probably comes with a (quiet) sigh […]

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Tennessee Young People’s Retreat 2021

The 2021 Tennessee young people’s retreat was held August 9 to 13 by Providence, Hudsonville, Unity, and First (Holland) Protestant Reformed Churches. The retreat took place at Eagle Rock Retreat Center in the city of Tallassee. It was about an eleven-hour drive, give or take a bit due to stops for food and restrooms. Though […]

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