Question Box

Question: “Is it proper for the minister to take communion at both services?  If so, why do not the elders do this also?”

Answer: We should consider that there is no rule which tells us that we may not celebrate communion every Sabbath or every time we worship.  The number of times we celebrate communion comes to us from the custom of our fathers who somehow deemed it wise not to raise the sacrament to the importance of the preaching of the Word and yet to somehow advise about four times a year.  We thank God for the gift of this custom and many forms and customs that we have, about which we need not trouble ourselves and break new paths of action with attendant confusion.  If a minister does celebrate twice a Sunday, he may see fit to do so because he administers it and therefore, we cannot say it is improper.  For the same reason, we could say an elder may or may not as they see fit celebrate if they also administer.

However, there is something in that celebration of the Lord’s Supper by a small part of the congregation in the second service which defeats one of the very ideas of the supper.  For which I am glad that in our congregation we have done away with it by insisting on participants attending the designated service.  We celebrate together.

Question: “Is it Scripturally possible to understand “the poor” or “the poor ones” in any different way as being referred to individuals who are in direct bodily need?  How is it Scripturally defensible to leave collections for “the poor” from out a true public worship?  Without the forenamed collection, is there public worship?”

Answer: We can say that in Scripture the word “poor” sometimes refers to those who are spiritually poor, e.g. Matthew 5:3: “Blessed are the poor in spirit” and also Matthew 11:5: “And the poor have the gospel preached to them.”  Sometimes it refers to those who are materially or bodily poor, in distinction from the rich.

In connection with the poor in a material sense, we all understand correctly that it is the calling of the churches through its deaconate to take care of these poor. The question is, does this belong to every public worship?  I cannot find proof of this in Scripture.  We have only the admonition to care for the poor.  Whether this was done at every service is not stated; nor is it definite that the work of the deacons to “take care of the tables” as we read it in Acts, was a necessary part of their every public worship.  It is true from our Reformed church assumption the collection for the poor was considered as a part of every service of public worship.  It was a question whether it should be during or after the service.  Concerning this we read this from Jansen, p. 115, “Onder den dienst is liturgisch het meest juist.  De liturgie toch eischt dat het karakter van vrijwillige liefgave bij de collecte voor de armen goed tot zijn recht komt.  Maar dan als deel van en niet al een aanhangsel achter aan den eeredienst.  It is also true that since the Reformation, the deacons were considered as office bearers in the church.

In most of our churches, as is also true here in Redlands, the one collection, which is the first and is called “for the general fund”, is distributed among various needs of the church, including needy churches and thus in a way at every service a collection for the poor is taken.

Question: “Should we as young people have a Youth Center in our Church?”

Answer: If we would interpret “youth center” as a place in the church where the youth of the church gather for fellowship and study of the Word of God, we would answer, by all means.  Make the place attractive, too.  And then we would say in that sense, we do have youth centers.

I realize, however, that that is not what is usually understood by the expression, “youth center”.  I think, by youth center is meant a center for physical and social entertainment only.  Then in answer to the question whether we should have these centers in our church, I would say no.  We should build our churches and sponsor only that which pertains to our spiritual welfare in our churches.  We do not have offices for obtaining work or conduction business; we do not make the house of God a den of thieves, etc.

It may be, however, under certain circumstances, that a group of Christian youth or parents provide a center for the recreation of the Christian youth.  I have in mind an instance in which parents of one of our churches and of a Christian Reformed church made a skating pond, hired someone to take care of it and thus provided a youth center in their own unique and commendable way.  Notice how I say, it may be under certain circumstances.  I make this provision for I am afraid that there are two evils we must guard against.  The one danger is Anabaptism, false isolationism: the other danger is that many “worldly amusements” are brought into the body of Christians.  Youth centers may become vicious organized endeavors of the devil under cover of the name Christian, to seduce Christian youth.

Question: “You often hear people say, ‘God chose His people and passes another by’: but does God ever pass anyone by?”

Answer: The expression is used undoubtedly to solve the problem which we all have, to explain how God sovereignly rejects some to eternal damnation without becoming in any way the author of sin.  The expression “passes by” as the questioner rightly observes, does not satisfy us.  In the first place it overlooks the revelation of God in which it is clear that it is according to His will that there are wicked in this world.  He raises them up to show His power.  In the second place it doesn’t answer the problem of God’s power to save.  It implies lack of power to save, or it explains that God’s choice is purely arbitrary.  In the third place, there is even an implication of dualism in the expression: it fails to see that the wicked are vessels of wrath in which God reveals Himself and does not pass them by.

Question: “Do the ungodly sin against God in hell?  If not, what then is the attitude of the creature in hell toward God?  Is it fear, hatred or love?”

Answer: I think we should understand that history is the stage for the manifestation of sin and grace.  After the man of sin has been revealed and sin has reached its ripened development, there is the judgment and thereafter the eternal reward.  In hell, there is no purgatory, no love or fear of God on the part of the ungodly creature.  He remains ungodly, never Godly.  I don’t think that we can say, considering the purpose of history and the judgment and the idea of hell—it is the final death; the final reward—that the ungodly creature shall sin in hell.  Hell shall be passive and eternal suffering.  It has been argued that the wrath of God shall be revealed in all its divinity and that punishment implies sin and therefore there shall be also in hell a continuing in sin.  But I do not think that this argument considers the line of separation which changes and separates time from eternity.

Question: “Is there a difference in the terms: God wills a certain thing and God allows a certain thing?  What is the difference?”

Answer: There is a difference.  To say God allows a certain thing implies that the power of its being is outside of God’s will.  When we confess the Providence of God, we confess that almighty, omnipresent power of God.

Question: “Is there any difference before God between sins of thought, of word and of deed?  Is it just as sinful before God to think a sin as to commit it?”

Answer: This questioner understands correctly that sins of deed word and thought are all sin before God.  Even though there may be a difference, they remain sin, for which we must give an account.  We can answer on the basis of the teaching of the difference in degree of punishment which the Word of God makes plain that there is also a difference in these sins.  If I sin in thought, e.g., hate, that is murder: if I murder in deed, that is also murder worthy of greater punishment.  However, we must remember that we are not judges.  We cannot say that the thoughts of one person under certain circumstances deserve less punishment than the deeds of another person.  God alone is the judge who knows the heart.  Jesus forgave the sins of the woman taken in adultery, but the adultery of the Pharisees, which may have been only on the inside, was not forgiven.

Question: “If an unbelieving doctor performs an operation, to restore to health or to save a life, does he do a good deed or an evil deed?  If a philanthropist, out of a merciful heart, erects a hospital where there is need of one, does he do a good or an evil deed?  Would God have them do these things or would He that they forbear?  If they do what He would have them do, do they do evil or good?”

Answer: To the first question, we can answer very simply with Scripture, Romans 14:23: “for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”  If it is an unbelieving doctor, he sins before God.  One may be an expert surgeon and perform a remarkable operation, but ethically he may sin if he does not acknowledge his strength and talent is in God and that God is the one who saves and restores life and therefore must have all glory.

To the second question, the answer is the same.  Mere philanthropy is not enough.  Philanthropy is the love of man.  We must love God above all and only then can we really love man.  The Bible teaches us that the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel Prov. 12:10.

To the third question, we can answer that God would have them do these things for such He has commanded in His word.

Nevertheless, though they do indeed what He would have them do, i.e. outwardly, that does not mean that they do good.  There are more commandments than just to care for the poor and sick.  If we keep some outwardly and transgress one of the commandments we transgress the whole law.

To present the matter in another way, God willed that wicked men should crucify Christ.  Does that mean they did good or evil?

Question: “Can a man be saved who professes to believe in the atoning blood of Christ and denies eternal damnation, i.e., believe in hell as annihilation?”

Answer: Mere profession in the atoning blood of Christ does not save anyone.  Many will say even that they have done many wonderful works in His name and shall not be received by Christ.  Our salvation does not depend upon our confession.  We are saved by grace through faith and that faith causes us to confess and to lay hold of the Scriptures.  To deny that part of the Scriptures which teaches that hell is eternal suffering is worthy of the judgment of revelation, his name shall be blotted out to the book of life.  We should, however, make consideration for ignorance because of false teachers.  Maybe someone “believes” that there is no hell because he has been under the influence of false teaching.  Should he be brought to the light of those Scriptures which definitely teach us about the reality of hell and then deny, we cannot regard his confession of faith as sincere.