In these days of the Women’s Liberation and Equal Rights movements there is probably no occupation more looked down upon by the world as that of the housewife. Even the adjectives usually placed before the name of the occupation — common, ordinary, “plain old,” tell of its importance to many today. In magazines especially meant for the women of today’s world, there is hardly an issue that passes by that has no story of what one woman has done to make her common, ordinary life as a “plain old” housewife more meaningful. Even the advertisements boast in loud print — “You’ve come a long way, Baby.” Nowadays there is really no woman who has to lose out in the job market because she hasn’t the intelligence to enter college. The day of the vocational school is here, and with it comes the offer to earn a high salary with more specialized and less difficult education. Women are encouraged more and more to pursue a career and climb the “ladder of success” right along with their male peers, and even in some cases to fight them to the very end in order to obtain equal status with equal pay. And those who have made it to the top in business, medicine, and a host of other fields almost pity the women “stuck at home with a bunch of bawling kids.”
Sometimes it almost seems as though we, too, go along with the feelings of the world toward this seemingly humble and unimportant occupation. Girls it seems are no longer praised for the virtues of the Christian mother, but are scanned for talents in the direction of the business world. In fact, an intelligent girl who decides to marry and raise a family instead of pursuing a career first and then working her family around it is almost considered foolish at times. Even women who are married and have children already seem to think that they are not useful enough in the position they have and seek outside interests. Those who have no small children at home anymore are persuaded to take jobs to “keep busy.” Sometimes it really does seem that we, too, look down upon one of the most rewarding and blessed positions a woman could possibly gain.
The Bible speaks in many ways of the blessedness of being a God-fearing wife and mother. Even Solomon, a man with many, many wives realized the worth of a virtuous woman, when he wrote the words of Proverbs 31: “Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies . . . . Strength and honor are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come. She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. Her children arise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. Favour is deceitful and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.” Seldom today would a woman who finds her fulfillment in the keeping of a household hear words– of praise such as these, but now as never before, she deserves words such as these.
It is still true that God has given some women positions of a different nature in the church. Not all have been called to be wives and mothers, just as many women have not been called to become teachers and workers in other varying occupations. But when God calls women to be housewives, and mothers, who labor in the home, they must not be discouraged in this calling, as if it were a disgraceful occupation, and the “dead end” of the career girl’s life, but rather encouraged to seek their fulfillment in the ways of the God-fearing woman who finds her usefulness in the raising of the Covenant seed and her business in the work of the Church.
A pilgrim walking down Life’s path
Soon met another traveling there.
He was a stranger, all alone.
He said his name was Earthly Care.
He had a wealth of goods with him,
And in much finery was dressed.
The shabbily-garbed pilgrim asked
How such a man could be distressed.
“Ah,” sighed the man, “Look at the sky.
Look at the rivers, oceans, lakes.
It isn’t fair this price man pays
Just for a few careless mistakes.”
“Sin manifests itself in ways
So countless,” said the pilgrim then.
“Man cannot build himself a Heav’n —
His Tower of Babel falls again.”
“Nay,” said the stranger,” give him time.
And man will conquer — this I know.
The wisdom that in man abides
Will all these evils overthrow.”
“I fear not for these smog-filled skies.
Or for the poisoned land and sea”
The pilgrim sighed, “but for the souls
Of men who love iniquity.
Their way is known to God above,
And soon, in torment, they shall weep.
Shall they make Him a liar who said,
“That which ye sow, ye’ll also reap’?”
The stranger gazed with sympathy.
“Poor fool,” he said, “you read too much
The Word of God. A man should do things
As he wants. The Bible has become your crutch.”
“My crutch it is!” the pilgrim cried.
“It is the staff on which I lean.
Can man’s words comfort me as those
My Saviour spoke —Who washed me clean?
Nay if my God, for e’en one hour
Decreed that I alone should stand.
I’d fall, as helpless as a babe
That cannot grasp its Father’s hand.”
“Poor wretch,” the stranger said, dismayed.
“So filled with his own guilt and shame
He misses out on Life’s best gifts,
The wealth, the pleasure, and the fame.”
And so the two men parted ways,
The one soon vexed with earth’s affairs.
And problems of a dying world.
The other glad with Heaven’s cares.
“This piece originally was submitted for our last Literary Contest. “Antithesis” was given a first place award in the high school division. — Editor.
The most basic causes for reoccurring of war and rumors of war are man’s willing denials and disdain for God’s law. The last of the Ten Commandments, “Thou shall not covet,’’ is the basis for the violation of any other of God’s laws. So also covetousness is the basis for the preliminary causes of war and for war itself. Almost inevitably in every war, at least four other commandments are violated, especially the fifth, “Honor thy Father and thy Mother,” the sixth, “Thou shalt not kill,” the eighth, “Thou shalt not steal,” and the ninth, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” All the causes for continuous waging of war as listed by Will and Ariel Durant in the Lessons of History, i.e., acquisitiveness, pugnacity, pride, and desire, serve as proof that the causes for war in any form is sin —sin against the law of God.
But why is there war? Obviously there is war because God willed that there would be war. But why does God “Make peace and create evil”? The answer to this question can only lie “God does it for the good of His people.” We know that all things, war and all other manifestations of sin included, work for the gathering of God’s People into His Eternal Kingdom. As long as the kingdoms of this world war with one another, they are thus prevented from concentrating upon the Church. In this way God builds His Church without worldly “interruption” as He had planned. We must notice that God does not just simply let war happen. His hand is in the midst of warring nations, controlling the ultimate victory to satisfy His plan. We know this because God has revealed unto us this truth in many places of Scripture. John 16:33 is an especially comforting passage regarding the why of war. We read, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”
It would be foolish for men of any belief to think that there could ever be a true and lasting peace upon earth. If men can not tell by now that the friction between themselves is increasing and has ever been increasing, their powers of logic must be severely lacking. The truth is they are not ignorant, but stubborn. They refuse to recognize their totally depraved nature as such, and they stubbornly turn their faces from a God whose Words they despise. There can be no peace where there is not peace with God.
But yet, a world without hope still hangs on to their faith in mankind. Some men speak of peace accomplished by the realization of a “brotherhood” of man. Some speak of peace as a worldwide turn to faith in God’s existence. Some speak of peace on earth only when interplanetary warfare necessitates a limiting of earthly forces of power. And still more speak of peace accomplished through war itself. In the Lessons of History, Will and Ariel Durant say, “A world order will not come by a gentlemen’s agreement, but through so decisive a victory by one of the great powers that it will be able to dictate and enforce international law, as Borne did from Augustus to Aurelius.”
For the Christian, the above statement may not seem so far-fetched. We know from the book of Revelation that the Kingdom of the Antichrist will indeed control the entire world. The Beast, to whom John refers in Revelation will have so much power over men, that in order to carry out their various daily tasks, they will be required to bear his mark. For the world, this will mean peace — peace, for their warfare among themselves will be at an end. But for the elect child of Cod, it will be a time of war and greatest tribulation as the world of reprobate men turn their faces to the Church and lash out in wild fury against it. This tribulation and persecution will be so intense that were not the days shortened by God, the elect themselves would be completely destroyed from off the face of the earth.
Thus, when the Child of God prays for peace on earth, he prays for wicked men and not for the Church and himself. Praying for the peace of worldly men is against God and against His Word. Instead of praying that the wars God has sent as signs of His Coming to judge all nations, the Christian should pray that God will build and strengthen His Church that they may withstand the persecution worldly peace implies and hold fast the Word of Truth. A prayer for peace within the Church is much more important, for only if the Church holds fast to her foundation, Christ, will she gain her crown of righteousness and have eternal peace, peace with God.
The 32nd Annual PRYP Convention is now a thing of the past, but for those of us who were privileged to attend it, it remains a happy memory.
The 1972 Convention was held in Estes Park, Colorado from July 24-28 and was sponsored by the Loveland PRYP Society. The theme chosen for the convention was “Come, Lord Jesus,” a very interesting and relevant theme for young people of this day and age, which was based on Revelation 22:20.
Monday morning, July 24, an airplane load of anxious excited young people arrived at the gigantic Stapleton Airport in Denver, Colorado — greeted by a huge sign reading “Welcome, Protestant Reformed Young People.”
The bus ride from Denver to Loveland’s beautiful Lakeside Park gave us but a glimpse of the splendor of the towering mountains that awaited us in Estes Park. Lunch was served when we arrived and joined those who had traveled out to Loveland by car, camper, and other ways from both West and East. After the congenial mothers of Loveland Church filled us up, we were able to register and find lodging for the night with members of the congregation.
Monday evening we gathered at the Loveland High School cafeteria for a delicious home cooked meal, courtesy of those busy Loveland mothers once again. Then we were encouraged to spend the rest of the evening exercising off the meal with such planned activities as volleyball, swimming, and basketball, and the opportunity to take on the state’s lightweight wrestling champ, also courtesy of Loveland Society.
Tuesday morning, July 25, everyone rose bright and early to enjoy delicious pancakes, sausage, juice and coffee made by the mothers at the traditional pancake breakfast. Shortly after breakfast, piles of luggage were once more loaded into pickups and busses and we were finally away to the mountains.
The short trip from Loveland to the camp was one that will long be remembered. For most of the young people the trip thru the beautiful Colorado mountains was one that was long overdue . . . and was too soon ended.
Upon our arrival at the YMCA Camp of the Rockies, a registration meeting was held at the Louis B. Dick Hall, lodging assignments were received, directions were given and rules were put down concerning meal tickets, curfew, etc. Lunch was then served in the Ponderosa Hall, followed by the first business meeting.
After the delegate board finished their agenda, a bit of free time was given in which we were able to get settled in the large bunkrooms provided. Then, after devotions were led by Rev. Engelsma, supper was served.
Tuesday evening everyone gathered in the L. Dick Hall, once again, to hear a very enlightening speech concerning “Jesus’ Quick Coming” made by Rev. Kuiper. We were then favored by a reading, sang the theme song and the opportunity to mingle over coffee and donuts with the members of the congregation who had “journeyed up” to the mass meeting, and with our fellow conventioneers.
Wednesday morning we woke up to another beautiful sunny day in the mountains. Some went their own separate ways to enjoy the many sports and activities made
available, while the “braver” ones ventured out to hike up a mountain and view the entire camp from it. This courageous group was led by a rather notarized climber, Rev. Engelsma.
After the hours of free time were spent, we gathered in groups about the camp to discuss our views concerning such timely topics as life after death, the new heavens and earth, and our glorified bodies. It was a discussion that was enjoyable and inspiring for all.
Following our discussions was lunch and then another meeting. This time Rev. Moore spoke. He gave a very edifying message concerning the Church’s outlook on the future.
For the next few hours we had at our disposal many and varied activities such as badminton, basketball, bowling, archery, tennis, shuffleboard, swimming, and horseback riding, even though the scheduled arrival of rain kept most enthralled in the indoor type activities. Much to our happiness the rain did let up just long enough for us to enjoy a delicious chuck wagon supper followed by a good old fashioned campfire sing along, led by our youth coordinator, Pete Miedema.
Thursday morning, July 27, we were served breakfast and then attended another business meeting, ballots were passed, officers for the Federation Board were elected and the last business was taken care of.
And then there were the annual East- West Games and what a great time was had. The girls alas, had only one game to play, softball. This time the West took over and emerged with a win. But it was the guys who took over the limelight with softball, basketball and football. Softball was taken by the East with little trouble, but basketball was another story. After playing two games, the guys decided that with Rev. Engelsma on the opposite team, there was little else to do but give up. Therefore Rev. Engelsma obligingly joined each side and brought each a win.
Thursday afternoon discussion groups met again. This time Bibles were opened and we enjoyed Christian fellowship while discussing portions of the Word of God dealing with Christ’s return.
Thursday evening was the highlight of the convention. In spite of a flooded shower room and the rain outdoors, everyone managed to get ready on time for the banquet held in the Walnut Room. Girls in formals and guys in suits gathered for a delicious meal of roast beef, salad, apple pie, and plenty of other good things to eat.
Then after dinner Rev. Decker gave the final speech of the Convention, “The Saints’ Life of Waiting for the Lord.” a speech which was applicable to each one of us and our lives and left us with much to think about.
After the theme song “Our Lord Jesus” was sung, retiring Fed. Board President Gary Bauwkamp introduced the newly elected President, Ken Koole, who in turn announced the site of the 1973 Convention, D.V., in Hope Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
“God Be With You ’Til We Meet Again” was sung as it is traditionally to close the Convention and after prayer to God, the Convention was fittingly ended.
And surely we who were so privileged to attend the 32nd Annual Convention could say: “It was good for us to have been there.”
In the first part of this series of articles on the Jehovah’s Witnesses, we saw their beliefs concerning Christ. In the second part, we will look at some of their beliefs concerning man himself. The Jehovah’s Witnesses have several unique, but odd beliefs concerning man, his life, and his death.
The first thing that must be taken into consideration is the Russellite view of death. According to founder C. F. Russell, death is total annihilation, and when a man dies, he is therefore non-existent. Of course, as we saw in the first article on Christ, He is also considered a man, and it follows logically then, that Christ’s death on the cross followed the same pattern, ending in annihilation of His body and soul likewise.
Many Scripture passages reassure us that the ghastly death described by the leaders of this cult belongs to no man. John 5:24 illustrates comforting proof of this in the words, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth any word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation: but is passed from death unto life.” (KJV) The story of the rich man and Lazarus gives evidence that annihilation after death is not experienced by either wicked reprobate or God’s elect men. If these men had been completely destroyed, neither one could have spoken, since non-existent men are incapable of such, with no exception.
In order to continue this article, it is necessary that we look at the Russellite beliefs about men by dealing with the Believers and Unbelievers separately. There¬fore we will discuss further beliefs in two parts.
Russellism teaches that there was a resurrection in the spring of 1878. In this resurrection all of the Apostles and true believers who had died before then were resurrected as spirit-beings. This means that although these men have souls, they take on no particular physical form. They have, however, been endowed with the power to “manufacture” for themselves bodies and clothing suited to their needs. Thus, they have the ability to assume different appearances and with clothing suitable to the fashion of the era in which they are existing.
The Russellites also teach that there was another resurrection which took place in 1914, for the benefit of those saints which passed away after the 1878 resurrection. Those who were resurrected experienced this in the same manner as those before them in 1878 had, and are now living upon the earth as spirit-beings also.
The two groups of believers who received life again in these first and second resurrec-tions are known to the Jehovah’s Witnesses as the Bride of Christ or as “the little flock.” These have a “divine nature” and will reign with Christ during the Millennium which has begun already with the second resurrection.
Many an argument has arisen between the Jehovah’s Witnesses and their doctrinal opponents on this question, not so much as to the veracity of their doctrine as to the logic of their ideas. The Russellites confess to the doctrine of the annihilation of the dead as we have seen before. The problem then arises over how annihilated beings can possibly be resurrected. The conniving leader of the Russellites has an answer to this problem, too. His answer — they are simply recreated. Obviously any person who is capable of employing his reason can see that this is a denial of the resurrection. Resurrection, the raising of the dead, the restoration of life, cannot take place with non-existent bodies and souls. Once again, many Scripture texts support the resurrection of the dead. One reference in Scripture that can be employed is I Cor. 15:35 and 44, where we read “But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.” Thus, the beliefs of Russellism are once again refuted with ease.
The Russellites are proponents of many strange doctrines in contradiction with the Orthodox views which we accept as our own. Their beliefs about unbelieving men are no exception to this.
Russellism, first of all, teaches that the wicked dead have been raised in 1914, at the beginning of the Millennium, and as recreated spirit-beings, are also living upon the earth now. For these wicked men, the century from 1914 to 2014 is the “second- chance” era. Now is their opportunity to join up with the Bride of Christ as it is manifest in this world. If they do so, they will be made physically and morally perfect. Failure to do so in the appointed century will result in another annihilation, known as the Second Death.
But there is a catch for those repentant unbelievers. They will be on probation for 1,000 years. If they do not remain faithful to Christ, they, too, will experience the Second Death. If they do, however, manage to remain faithful, they will be granted everlasting life.
After the rest of the unbelievers have been eternally destroyed and only the Bride of Christ and the repentant unbelievers are left, they will receive their rewards. Those who have believed from the beginning receive immortality, which is life sustained without food. The repentant unbelievers who receive everlasting life will eat of the original Tree of Life to sustain them.
Of course, the wicked reprobate of this world find all these doctrines rather attractive, to say the least. Where else can you find a “doctrine” which advocates the position of sin? They find comfort in sin, a second chance, and at the same time in a belief which makes death look not-so-bad.
We have no need for the vicious, blasphemous Russellism as we have seen it now. We have the comfort of those who do not fear the death of this earthly tabernacle. We by God’s grace say with Paul:
“O death, where is they sting?
O grave, where is thy victory?
The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God,
Who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
I Cor. 15:55-57.
In a recent article under the heading “Critique,” Miss. A. Lubbers pointed out to both BEACON LIGHTS readers and writers that the original intent of this rubric was to bring current doctrinal issues to light. Keeping this in mind, I thought it might prove interesting to make an evaluative study of some of the cults of today’s world.
One of the foremost cults of our age is that of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The modern movement toward this cult began in 1884, when a man by the name of Charles Taze Russell incorporated the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society from members of an organization called the International Bible Students Organization, which he had created in 1872. Russell and his band of followers held several beliefs which came to be known collectively as Russellism.
Russellism after this time developed into the set of beliefs which are attributed to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who took on this name after the death of Charles Russell. The name Russellism was indeed an appropriate name for these strange beliefs, since they were strictly the offspring of Russell’s conniving mind. In order to study the Jehovah’s Witnesses, therefore, we must first delve into the beliefs of Charles Taze Russell.
One of the first and most radical propositions made by Russell concerns the miraculous origin and existence of Christ. Russell believed that Jesus Christ was a creation of God, and was actually created a spirit being as all the angels had been created. He went further to explain that Christ, before he had assumed the human nature, had in reality been the archangel, Michael. Try to imagine this – God’s only Son, very God, and very man, being only an Archangel of the Almighty God! It takes only the powerful verse of John 1:1 to show the outright blasphemy of this teaching. Note – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” In John 8:58, we also ready Christ’s words, “Before Abraham was, I AM.” How strange it is that those who have taken upon themselves the name “Jehovah’s Witnesses” – the I AM’s Witnesses – can so easily reject Him Who is just as really the I AM. To believe as the Jehovah’s Witnesses is to deny Christ His Eternity, Co-existence, and His Deity.
Russellism next declares that when Christ became a man in the flesh, He left His Spirit behind, thereby walking on the earth as nothing more than a perfect human being. Russell himself says, “He was not exalted to the divine nature until the human nature was sacrificed-dead.” Thus, while on the earth, Christ has no trace of the divine nature in Him, and His Incarnation becomes of little significance. Such mangling of the many beautiful Scriptural passages that testify to Christ’s two natures is almost unbelievable. Russellism, I believe, is self-contradictory. It allows Christ a perfect human nature, but then calls Him a liar when he speaks the words recorded in John 14:9, “He that hath seen me hath seen my Father.” Thus it becomes possible for a perfect man to lie?
Because Russellism proposes that Christ while on earth had only a perfect human nature, it follows that the atonement of Christ for our sins was merely the work of a man. This the Russellites do not deny. In fact, Charles Russell himself said, “as a human being, he gave himself for a ransom for men.” Therefore, the man who died on the Cross for our sins was nothing more than this – a man. Upon reading the Heidelberg Catechism concerning the problem of the complete satisfaction for sin, we find the following question and answer: “Can there be found anywhere one, who is a mere creature, able to satisfy for us? None; for first, God will not punish any other creature for the sin which man hath committed; and, further no mere creature can sustain the burden of God’s eternal wrath against sin so as to deliver others from it.” Scripture also testifies on behalf of this in Psalm 49:7, where we read: “None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for Him.” But the Russellites are not content to stop here, with Christ alone making satisfaction for our sins. No, this sinful cult declares that we ourselves, by our eventual death, has a part in this ransom, and that each of us is a living sacrifice. One who sincerely has known the misery of being a sinner can only stand in awe at this blasphemy and degradation of the Atonement. My sinful, hateful life a sacrifice toward my own redemption? Thanks be to God I need not take a part in even the smallest part of it!
Finally, in studying the Jehovah’s Witnesses and their beliefs concerning Christ, we must look at one more absurd proposition of Russellism. The Russellities declare, finally, that Christ now exists as a spirit being in Heaven. He exists in this manner without even so much as a trace of His human nature. Russellism denies the Resurrection, but rather insists that Christ’s body was removed from the grave by supernatural means unknown to us. This, they say, was done in order that the presence of the body would not hinder the faith of His disciples. There are again numerous passages of Scripture which support the fact that Christ is now in Heaven in both natures. One of these is I Timothy 2:5, where Paul declares that “there is one Mediator between God and man, the MAN Jesus Christ.” This evil belief plainly denies not only Christ’s Resurrection and bodily ascension, but also distorts or denies His Intercession. How the Jehovah’s Witnesses find comfort in having a Christ like this at all, is incomprehensible.
Having read about the Jehovah’s Witnesses, we can surely see how important it is to know just what is wrong with this cult, which although it may appear harmless, is an abominibly sinful cult. In the second part of this article, we will look as some of their beliefs concerning man himself.
Originally Published in:
Vol. 31 No. 8 December 1971
There has seldom in our world been as much concern for peace as there is today. Most of this concern may be traced to wars and rumors of war, racism and rioting, which are increasing daily. Many people have taken it upon themselves to find an answer to their problem of hostility between nations and peoples. Their goal is to establish peace between the citizens of this entire planet and teach a love for others to all in this world.
Many thousands of people have been engulfed by this huge wave of peace seekers. And as more and more people join the peace movement, more and more of those from the Church are being swept along in subtle current. Various arguments and excuses are formulated by them to explain the position which they have taken upon themselves along with many of those known as anti-religious peacemakers.
One of the arguments these Christians use is a supposed proof from Scripture that Christ encouraged and advocated the efforts of peacemakers. They quote as this “proof” Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the Children of God.” Thus, they compare themselves to the peacemakers whom Christ has called blessed.
But they are sadly mistaken in using this text to prove that their job as peacemakers is in the right. Why would the same God who determines the wars and rumors of war that come into being, encourage His people to rebel against His Will?
God does not ever contradict Himself, nor does He need the advice of men to help Him see the effect war has on the world. He has in His Eternal Will determined all that must happen before His kingdom can come. All the efforts of peacemakers, then, have no effect upon God’s unchangeable counsel, for as He has revealed in Isaiah 45:7, “I make peace and create evil.”
Who then, are those peacemakers called blessed by Christ? The answer is not found in those who are trying to make peace in the world, but in those who are directing their thoughts from the turmoil of the world to the gathering of the Church from out of their turmoil.
Blessed peacemakers are those who are contributing to the peace of God’s people. They are those who are found teaching the peace of God, and that peace is “the peace that passeth all understanding” (Phil. 4:7). They are those who live peaceably among their brothers and sisters in Christ, following Christ’s command. They are the ones who teach the same love they show to others.
Blessed peacemakers are seldom given the praise and recognition that the peacemakers of the world are given. But they do not seek world recognition either. Their reward is far greater than a Nobel Peace Prize or other awards of an earthly origin. Their reward is seeing that by the grace of God, in their work, they have sown seed for fruits of righteousness. “And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace” (James 3:18).
And herein also is the Father glorified, when our work as blessed peacemakers is accomplished (John 15:8).
Originally Published in:
Vol. 31 No. 3 May 1971
Ecology is a much discussed topic in our time. This branch of science, which deals with the relationship of a creature to his environment, has now become primarily concerned with the relationship of man to his environment. It is obvious to almost anyone that more and more people in this world are becoming involved with the subject of ecology every day. Almost everything from lapel buttons to bumper stickers reveals a growing concern of many who have begun to realize at last that their earth is beginning to show signs of much misuse by man. Americans are particularly concerned with the condition of their surroundings. Living in so affluent a society has now produced for them many problems which they had never before dreamed of having. Among these ecological problems are land, air, and water pollution. Once beautiful lakes, rivers, and streams are now being poisoned daily by wastes flowing from the same factories which once symbolized the wealth and prosperity. The sapphire blue of the sky is gradually taking on the sickly grey hue of smog, and the land itself is being ruined by chemical overdoses.
God’s people in this land are also affected by this pollution problem. They drink water from the same resources, eat of the crops produced by the same land, and breathe of the same filthy air as do their worldly neighbors. But the Child of God has and must have a different attitude when he sees this rapid destruction of earth’s beauty. Pollution then takes on a new meaning for him as he reads the Word of God.
The first comfort for the Christian can be found in Isaiah 24:1, where he read, “Behold the Lord maketh the earth empty, and maketh it a waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth the inhabitants thereof.” In this verse, as well as in many other verses of the Bible, we find that it is God alone who controls what happens to the earth which he himself has formed. Going on to verse five of the same chapter, we find the cause for the defilement of this earth, “The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.” Man, in all his attempts to make nature submit to his authority, only succeeds in upsetting the balance of nature so perfectly worked out by the Father. Thus we see that sin itself is the cause for this pollution, and we, the conscious partakers it is, serve only to corrupt what God has made beautiful.
A man of the world, Albert Schweitzer, once said, “Man has lost the capacity to foresee and to forestall. He will end by destroying the earth.” These words speak better than any I found about how the World and the Church differ on the ecology problem in this world today. Schweitzer’s words certainly speak of little hope in this man’s heart, and they reflect, to be sure the same feeling of pessimism in the hearts of many people today. But going even deeper into their significance, we find that although man realizes his helplessness, he still refuses to admit or submit to a God. It is when he reads of such despair, that the Christian finds he has much for which to be thankful. He realizes that he has a heavenly Father, who upholds all by His Providence, and Who has already in His sovereign will determined what will happen to this earth.
God has also told us of the things to come. He has done this so that we might recognize the coming of the latter days, and thus be ready and watching for the second coming of our Lord. We, then, who have these signs before us, certainly need not worry about our “capacity to foresee and to forestall,” for this is in the hands of our Sovereign and Omnipotent God. His promise to us is that “all things work together for good to those that fear Him, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). Knowing of this assurance of God, the Child of God never needs to let the World’s calls of warning cause fear in his heart.
But then, seeing that God will accomplish His purpose in spite of man’s efforts to solve the problem, must we then neglect to do our share in preventing further pollution, and forget about the World’s admonitions. The answer is definitely in the negative. Although God has not commanded us to march in protest of corruption of Creation, we nevertheless still have the command before us to be faithful stewards. God has given to us this beauty of Creation, and we have no right to abuse it. And even though we are far outnumbered by those who continue this abuse, and even when we see our efforts toward good stewardship having little effect upon the earth, we must keep in mind that our reward is greater than the sight of newly cleared skies or water that man hopes to achieve. Our reward is of Christ, for He has himself promised in Luke 12: 42-43 that he will be blessed, who, when his Lord returns, has been found at the work of a good steward.
With this hope and comfort in our hearts, we can easily look at the words of Schweitzer, and at the effects of pollution, still saying, “The heavens declare the glory of God…” (Psalm 19:1). For we look beyond clouds of smog and waste-filled oceans to clouds of glory and to the seas which will someday reflect the splendor of the returning Christ.
Originally Published in:
Vol. 30 No. 9 January 1971
We have little information regarding the early life of Polycarp. Most commentators give his birthdate as approximately 69 A.D. and his birthplace as Smyrna, a city of Asia Minor which is now the site of Izmir, Turkey. Some say he was raised by wealthy parents, while others argue that he was brought up by a devout Christian woman, Callisto.
Polycarp in his youth was an eager listener to the word of the Apostle John. These treasured moments at the feet of the most beloved apostle must have been a great source of strength for the young Christian who was just beginning to face the cruelty of an Antichristian world. John’s words must have painted a vivid picture of Christ’s life for all who listened. Even Polycarp’s letter to the Philippians, written many years later, reflects a great faith within him that must have been prompted by the beautiful testimony John had given of his Saviour. “…believing on Him who raised our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead and gave Him glory and a throne at His right hand, to Whom are subjected all things in Heaven and earth…” (15 – p. 144).
While still a young man, the Apostles appointed Polycarp to be the bishop over the flock at Smyrna. The tasks of the bishop were many and important. He was the actual head of his appointed church, taking charge of the presbyters and deacons, and serving as a sort of minister. Polycarp knew the importance of this office, and could often be found in deep and humble prayer before his God. Perhaps the words of J. C. Kee can explain why the man, young, yet strong in the faith, Polycarp was chosen for this work. He tells us that “the true leader of the congregation is the one bishop. As the guardian of true apostolic tradition and as the center of unity around which the Christians gather at the Eucharist, he is the God-given bulwark in the fight against heresy” (11 – p. 414).
This was truly an important office to hold. Even the Bible gives command to the bishop who is to use his office properly. In Titus 1:9, we read that this can be possible only by “holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine to exhort and convince the gainsayers.”
The church at Smyrna was a small, but very faithful church that as the others also experienced trouble. When Polycarp became the bishop, the foundations of that church were already being struck by heavy blows, both outside and within her. Three basic problems tormented her, heresy, a colony of trouble-making Jews, and the rise of paganism. The Bishop especially despised the heresies, for they could always so subtly creep into Smyrna.
Within Polycarp there had grown a fear of losing the truths given him by the Apostles. It was known that he would scarcely speak to those who offended him greatly by not speaking this, so precious a thing to lose at the time. The leader of the sect, the Marcionites, was especially a torment to Believers at this period of Church history. Polycarp, one day in the city of Rome, met the evil man. It seems that Marcion asked, in this story told later by Polycarp’s famous pupil, Iranaeus, whether Polycarp knew before whom he was standing. Marcion must have felt a stunning blow when Polycarp answered, “I know you to be the first-born of Satan” (10 – p. 138).
Polycarp did not end his refutation of false beliefs with this attack upon those who tried to quell the Christian truths of the Resurrection and the Last Judgment. He also attacked the Docetism so prevalent in his own pastorate. The bitterness he felt for those who denied directly the coming of Christ in flesh and indirectly His suffering and great torment physically, was brought out in his only remaining letter, which was written to the Philippians. “To deny that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is to be Antichrist. To contradict the evidence of the Cross is to be of the Devil” (14 – p. 147). It must have been a hard task for this shepherd to bring back his wandering sheep. They had the very words of the Apostle, John, before their eyes, and their own bishop to witness of the truth of these words, “and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us…” (John 1:14). Yet they insisted upon rejecting them for words which offered no comfort at all to the sinner who wants proof of the forgiveness of sins.
John, the exiled Apostle on the island of Pergamos, penned words of comfort to these tried saints of Smyrna, reminding them that their suffering and torment of soul was not for a futile cause. “I know thy works, and tribulation, and thy poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of those that say they are Jews and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that he may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Rev. 2:9).
What an inspiration these words must have been to Polycarp and his church. Persecution was becoming more prevalent now, and it was getting much harder to hold fast one’s faith. The heathen games had come back and now the pagans were building their amphitheaters, one of which was placed in Smyrna. The infamous Jews, of course, had their part in the great celebrations that were taking place. The cry during one of the great festivals rang louder and louder in the arenas. “Away with the Atheists!” “Away with the Atheists!” again and again the throngs in the amphitheater shouted.
The bloodthirsty crowds clamored more and more for gams. They daily thronged to the gates, but today was even more busy. A celebration even more exciting was being planned for today. The people had reminded the Asiarch, Philip, to obey the laws of the great Antoninus Pius. The Christians were at last to be punished for their defiance of Caesar. Away with these Atheists! Have no part with those who forsake the gods of Rome! Bring them into the arena!
Philip selected eleven Christians to be executed. One by one they were torn cruelly apart by the angry lions in their frenzied rush for food. The crowds went wild with joy and delight. Now they got their reward, a torn and broken body, crushed by the savage teeth of the lions. Now let them tell us of the resurrection, they who have such faith!
Finally all is over. The last body has become shreds of flesh. The last soul has gone to the Creator. But lo … the throngs are not yet stilled. The people clamor for still more. The martyrs were eleven in number, but now they want to make it twelve. Now they wanted Polycarp, the eighty-sic year old Bishop of Smyrna. Philip gives the order and the soldiers set out to get the old man.
There is some doubt as to whether Polycarp here heard the news of their coming and fled to an old country farmhouse or that his friends persuaded him to leave.
We next see a band of Roman soldiers hurrying up the road to an old house. Commentators here disagree as to whether Polycarp greets them at the door or has his hiding place betrayed by a servant tortured into doing this, but all agree that upon his arrest, he feeds the guards and requests an hour in which to pray. Fox’s Book of Martyrs tells us that “he prayed with such fervency that his guards repented that they had been instrumental in taking him” (5 – p. 9).
The soldiers next proceed onward with their charge who gives no trouble to them, but rather enters into conversation with them. The High Sheriff, whose own sister is a Christian cannot understand why this old man does not remember his age and concede. “What is the harm,” says he, “in saying ‘Caesar is Lord’?” (2 – p. 15). But the words of the man fail to penetrate the stubbornness of Polycarp. He is on the way Home.
The arrival is rushed. The guards have forgotten that prayer, and now they are eager to please the throngs that await their arrival. He is brought to the Asiarch, Philip, who will decide if he can whether the man is guilty of being a Christian. The man himself will be weighed in the balances. Philip gives Polycarp three chances to save himself. First, he must shout “Away with the Atheists!” This he does, pointing to the true Atheists sitting in the galleries. Next he must curse Christ, and once over that hurdle, he has saved his life. But no – he will not give up his crown, but orders the Tempter off with the words, “Eighty-six years have I served Him and He hath done me no wrong. How can I revile my King who saved me?” One more chance is given. “Swear in the name of Caesar.” The answer is irrevocable. He is a Christian and will not deny his Lord.
He now is convicted for his stand against the evil represented by those around him. He will die.
Polycarp’s martyrdom is not an extraordinary one with respect to the means by which he had to be executed, but there are several interesting accounts of the way he died. The most interesting, but certainly not the most credible, account if found in the letter written by a great storyteller, Marcion, who wrote to the other churches an account after they had requested it of someone who had seen it. We read of his death that it took place on a day that we would figure to be February 23, 155. After his body had been chained to a post and surrounded with faggots by the Jews, the fire was started. According to Marcion, the body would hardly burn, but was as a loaf of bread in the midst of it. Because the mob had so eagerly awaited the death of this man who had insulted them by his gently reprimanding words, they were rather disappointed that he died so slowly. Therefore, Roman soldiers plunged a sword into the side of Polycarp. To the astonishment of all around, a dove came forth from that side, and the blood, readily flowing, quenched the fire (13 – p. 161).
So Polycarp died the lowly martyr’s death, not a victim, but a victor. He left behind no great earthly possessions, for his treasure was where his heart was, in the Eternal Mansions. And although many will never hear of his life, those who are given the opportunity can be greatly comforted by this.
The prayer he prayed, supposedly before he died, is recorded by Roland H. Bainton in The Church of Our Fathers. “Lord God, Almighty, Father of Jesus Christ, I bless Thee that Thou didst deem me worthy of this hour that I shall take a part among the martyrs in the cup of Christ to rise again with the Holy Spirit. May I be an acceptable sacrifice. I praise Thee, I bless Thee, I glorify Thee glorify Thee thru Jesus Christ” (2 – p. 16). This prayer can do two things to the true Christian reading it. First, it will make him ashamed if he has forsaken the path of Life at times to be a friend in all ways possible to the World, in order to save his own skin. If a man such as Polycarp, so old, and yet, so strong, could profess his faith before a whole multitude of heathens, without wavering, how then is it possible for the one who also claims to have strong faith to forsake his Lord in front of the one or two who might have mocked his religion had he not done this? The Christian should had he not done this? The Christian should also see that when he faces persecution or just simple taunting from the World’s representatives, his will be the greater reward. Polycarp even said in the face of danger, “you threaten me with your fire of persecution, but you forget the fire of hell that never goes out” (2 – p. 31).
His humility can also be equated with his faith, for in the Letter to the Philippians, he equates himself with his presbyters, when he even knew of the power he held over them! Such a strange clash is found when we read that the Bishops of Rome even took the power over those of the same rank for themselves, and gradually became infallibly speaking Popes.
The only written things he left behind are his Epistle to the Philippians and a creed that can be traced through the Bishops of Smyrna to him because of the knowledge we have of his beliefs.
The former was written to the Philippians by Polycarp when they asked for information from him about Ignatius, another saint who met his death by martyrdom. It opens with Polycarp’s praise of their “solid roots of faith” and then proceeds on with the admonition to hold fast the “True Hope and Pledge of Righteousness.” It concludes with words of comfort to those who greatly mourned the passing of Ignatius and of their fellow Christians who had to die in the amphitheaters.
The creed is a very interesting example to compare with our own final version of the Apostles’ Creed. It can be found in Early Christian Creeds, by J. N. D. Kelly. “We also glorify one God, but as we know Him; and we accept the Christ, but as we know Him – Son of God Who suffered as He suffered, died as He died, and rose again the third day, and is on the Father’s right hand, and will come to judge living and dead” (12 – p. 82).
The above creed, although it was finally written out in this form in about 180 A.D., is actually a compilation of what the bishops of Smyrna both taught and believed up until then. Therefore the creed is accredited, in part, to Polycarp. It is interesting to note, also, that this creed is relevant to us yet today. For those who believe that Christ was a kind man who should be to us an example worth noting, this is a warning. They who thus make Christ a good benefactor, and by this deny His important Work for us as the Son of God, can find for themselves an answer in the words of so ancient a doctrinal statement.
Polycarp’s only remaining words are few in number, when they are compared to the great masterpieces of famous painters, or documents of famous writers and political leaders that have also died long ago. His name is seldom, if at all, mentioned in famous books or speeches, but, yet, when it is mentioned, it is usually referred to as the name of a poor Christian who also had to lose his life. Reflecting upon the life of Polycarp, I find Paul’s words of Romans 8: 35-39 a fitting end to the story of a martyr who died to gain his crown by entering an arena. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For Thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8: 35-39).
1. Attwater, D., A Dictionary of Saints, Kenedy and Sons, New York, 1958.
2. Bainton, R. H., The Church of Our Fathers, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1941.
3. Bruce, F. F., The Spreading Flame, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publ. Co., Grand Rapids, 1964.
4. Durant, Will, Caesar and Christ, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1944.
5. Fox’s Book of Martyrs, John C. Winston, Phila., 1926.
6. Fremantle, A., A Treasury of Early Christianity, Viking Press, New York, 1953.
7. Goodspeed, E. J., A History of Early Christian Literature, University of Chicago Press, 1942.
8. Grant, F. C., “Polycarp,” Encyclopedia Americana, Vol. 22, 1968 Edition.
9. Hanko, H., “Polycarp,” Beacon Lights, June-July 1966.
10. Iranacus, Adversus Haereses, as translated by Maxwell Staniforth in Early Christian Writings.
11. Kee, H. C., et. al., Understanding the New Testament, Prentice-hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1965.
12. Kelly, J. N. D., Early Christian Creeds, Longmans, Green & Co., London, 1960.
13. Marcion, The Martyrdom of Polycarp, as translated by Maxwell Staniforth in Early Christian Writings.
14. Payne, R., Fathers of the Western Church, Viking Press, New York, 1951.
15. Polycarp, Epistle to the Philippians, as translated by Maxwell Staniforth in Early Christian Writings, p. 144.
16. Renwick, A. M., The Story of the Church, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publ. Co., Grand Rapids, 19166.
Originally Published in:
Vol. 30 No. 8 December 1970
There is no doubt in my mind as to whether a generation gap exists in this country among the children of the world. Anyone can see quite plainly that parents and their children, particularly the teenaged ones, are drifting apart in their opinions as well as in their moral standards. Rebellion against parents and other types of authority is being manifested by teenagers all over, in the form of rioting, civil disobedience, and other uprisings. This should be very little of a surprise to the Christian, for Christ Himself has told us that in the world “the children shall rise up against their parents.” The question of whether the world has been affected by a generation gap is answered in an obvious way, but another question remains yet to be answered. I have chosen to answer the question “is there a generation gap in the church?” because I think that very few people ever stop to think about the true meaning of a generation gap and the effect one would have on our churches if there were a generation gap.
One of the most important reasons behind the rebellion of today’s teenagers is their opinion that they need not be brought up under the same set of rules that their parents grew up under. They argue that the world has changed a lot since “way back then,” and because of this, the same outdated set of rules should not be applied to them. We, the children of God should not believe this way. Almost every one of us is being brought u by parents who use the Bible as their Guide. This Guide has passed through the hands of many a God-fearing parent in the line of covenant generations. It is unchangeable, no matter how much the world around us changes; it is infallible, and though other rules may become outdated or be proven wrong in some way, “His truth endureth to all generations.” Rejection of this set of guidelines our parents have set before us, would be a sin against God, for then we are rejecting His Word and God Himself by it.
There are other reasons for the generation gap being a sin also. In the fifth commandment we are admonished to honor our father and our mother. Disobedience of this is also a sin. God has placed those in authority over us in order that we might obey His commandments through them. The rebellion of this day and age is a very clear example of disobedience to this command of God. God has also placed us here for a reason, that He might gather from among the world, a Church unto Himself. We are therefore only pilgrims and strangers here, looking forward to another kingdom. Young people and their parents argue most of all over the state of the world. Young people of the world are becoming too concerned over the state of the world. Constant arguments are arising over who is responsible for the problems of wars, pollution, and racial conflicts. We should never let the arguments between us and our parents become so involved with world problems that we forget our calling here. Our first concern should be the furthering of God’s Kingdom, and not Utopia.
I do not believe there is a generation gap in our churches. I have not been persuaded of this because I see young people of our churches respecting their parents so perfectly or never rebelling or becoming very involved in affairs not of the churches’ concern, but because when I see young people I know falling short of perfection I also see the repentance God places in our hearts. But most important of all is the fact that both parents and children have the love of God in their hearts. How, then can there be a generation gap between them when they are so strongly joined by an everlasting bond?
Originally published in:
Vol. 30 No. 1 March 1970
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