Vol. LIX, No. 9; October 2000
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Shortly before that great hour in which our Savior paid the full price for our redemption from sin, He prayed. In His prayer, He said that the Father had given Him power to give eternal life to His people. And what exactly is eternal life? Our Savior did not define it in terms of living, singing, praising God, and having great joy for a length of time that has no end. Rather, Christ said in John 17:3, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” Knowledge of God in the way of knowing Christ—that is eternal life. The songs of praise and joy flow out of that knowledge.
Do you know God? The first knowledge that a newly born child of God has is that of recognizing the voice of Christ. Just as sheep recognize the voice of a shepherd, baby animals recognize the voice of their parents, and a newborn child recognizes the voice of its mother and father, so the child of God recognizes the voice of God. This knowledge is a wonder. This knowledge comes only from God making us His very own children. This elementary yet profound knowledge is a work of God in the heart and is necessary and sufficient for salvation.
As our bodies and minds develop, so our knowledge of God must develop. God demands this and it is in accord with the way in which He has created us. God gives us this earthly life with all of our abilities and experiences so that our knowledge of God will grow and our eternal life be more fully realized.
Before we can know anything meaningful about God, we need to understand that God is our Heavenly Father. He is not our mother, brother, sister, or unrelated friend. He is not a genie holding all power and looking to give it to those who ask for it. He is not and never was a ruthless taskmaster. He was a Father to the Old Testament saints and He is a Father to us now.
This God, our Father, the One who will have His children seated round about His table in covenant fellowship is Jehovah. “Jehovah” is the name by which God sets Himself apart from every notion of the gods that have been invented by men. It is the name by which God reveals who and what He really is. God had revealed this name to His people already in Genesis 2:4, and as God was preparing Moses to lead His people from Egypt, He revealed what the name “Jehovah” meant. The meaning seems strange to us, but we must expect amazing and profound things too deep for us to fathom. We read in Exodus 3:14 “And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and He said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.”
In an attempt to explain the name I AM, our language reaches merely to the depth of saying, Jehovah is the One that was not made by someone else, He does not depend on anyone else, and He has everything that He needs within Himself. Reverend Herman Hoeksema put it this way, “He is of and in and through Himself, has the eternal ground and fountain of His Being within Himself, is not caused by or dependent on any being outside of Himself, and is, therefore, the absolute, pure Being, Who is also perfectly Self-sufficient, and has no need of any being outside of Himself” (Reformed Dogmatics, 69).
What a comfort it is to know that our Father is Jehovah! We are given a limited picture of the name “Jehovah” in earthly fathers as well. A little child sees his father as one who is self-sufficient and without beginning. When a child comes into the world, his father is one who is there from the beginning. He seems to be dependent upon no one and can care for all of his own needs. Gradually the child comes to see that this concept does not really hold for his earthly father, but belongs only to his heavenly Father.
The picture that God gives to us in earthly fathers may give our young minds the seed for the concept, but God builds and deepens that knowledge with His Word. As children we learn what it means that our Father is Jehovah when we listen to the instruction of godly parents, teachers, elders, and pastors. When we learn to read, we can read the truths directly from the Word as well as the truths as explained by those who have gone before us. By the power of the Holy Spirit, that knowledge becomes a part of who we are and we begin to live that blessed eternal life.
Let us look at a few sentences from God’s Word in which He further explains what “Jehovah” means. We learn that God does have life in Himself: “For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself” John 5:26. We read that nobody and nothing makes God do anything. He does what He pleases: “Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being his counsellor hath taught him?” Isaiah 40:13. “For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen” (Rom. 11:34-36). “The counsel of the Lord standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations” Psalm 33:11. “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” Isaiah 46:10. “Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things” (Acts 17:25). “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will” (Eph. 1:5). “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” (Eph. 1:11). These are but a few of the sentences, there are many more.
In whom do you believe? The Apostle’s Creed, and in this creed the true church of Christ answers: “I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.” I believe in the One Who has made me His child. I believe in the One Who said that His name is Jehovah, and this name means that He is Almighty. He has made the heavens and the earth and therefore so rules all creation in sovereign power that everything that happens, happens according to His sovereign will. The amazing comfort that we have from the truth that our Father is Jehovah is explained by the Heidelberg Catechism in Lord’s Day 9 and 10. Since this God is my Father, I can be assured that He works all things for my salvation.
Knowing the truth “my Heavenly Father is Jehovah” is eternal life. We cannot know this truth apart from Christ. As we noted at the beginning, Jesus Christ is the One Who gives that knowledge. He gives it by regenerating the heart. He then speaks to that heart and the child of God hears and knows that it is his heavenly Father that is speaking. In that speech, God reveals what it means to have God as our Father by revealing His work of salvation in Christ.
In the next issue, the Lord willing, we will consider the oneness of our Father.
In a response to the poem printed in the February 2000 issue of Beacon Lights which reads as follows:
We stray in sin, we cheat, we lie,
We set up other gods, we lust,
We steal, we kill, we are unjust.
a reader writes:
Is this what describes a child of God? Someone who has been convicted by the Spirit of God that there is no good in our flesh, that we need to be born again of the Spirit so that we may be justified by His life? Such were you, St. Paul writes to the church, but now you have been cleansed.
I know that in my flesh dwells no good thing, but it is no longer I that lives, but Christ who lives in me. St. Paul writes about laboring in birth pains that Christ may be born in the members of the church. We do not become omniscient by being converted and often think we are doing what is right, only to learn that it originated in the flesh, and therefore will be burned up like hay and stubble. It is easy to be deceived, since the devil will disguise himself into an angel of light. The elect will not stay deceived, faithful brothers and sisters will lovingly correct them and God Himself will witness to them, as He did to Job.
Lying, cheating, killing etc. cannot be the marks of a child of God. The Word teaches us that these are the sign of being outside of Christ. He did not only come to remove our sin, but to restore us and cleanse us. What He began, He will also finish.
Erica H. Lavender
The reader voices an understandable concern and I am grateful for the opportunity to dig a bit more deeply into this issue. It may appear that the poem we published promotes the ungodly attitude “let us sin that grace may abound.” I believe, however, that the writer of the poem is emphasizing that sin, no matter how innocent it may seem, is an abomination before God. The Heidelberg Catechism points out that we break the sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,” when we have feelings of envy, hatred, anger, and desire of revenge and when we do not show love to our neighbors. We steal whenever we try in any way to get for ourselves the goods which belong to our neighbor and do not promote the neighbor or faithfully labor. We lie even in the slightest twisting of words and when we do not honor and promote the honor and good character of our neighbor. This explanation of the commandments of God captures every one of us every day. On the other hand, as the author of the letter indicates, we must “constantly endeavor and pray to God for the grace of the Holy Spirit, that we may become more and more conformable to the image of God, till we arrive at the perfection proposed to us, in a life to come.” (Heidelberg Catechism A. 115b) Even so, we still
“… stray in sin, we cheat, we lie,
We set up other gods, we lust,
We steal, we kill, we are unjust.”
(Poem in Feb. 2000 Beacon Lights)
We must never forget how sinful we remain in this life. Only in this way do we see how great our salvation is. In the concluding question and answer of the Heidelberg Catechism regarding the Ten Commandments, we read Q. 115. “Why will God then have the ten commandments so strictly preached, since no man in this life can keep them? A. First, that all our lifetime we may learn more and more to know our sinful nature, and thus become the more earnest in seeking the remission of sin, and righteousness in Christ; likewise, that we constantly endeavor and pray to God for the grace of the Holy Spirit, that we may become more and more conformable to the image of God, till we arrive at the perfection proposed to us, in a life to come!”
The writer refers to Romans 7:18 where we read “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.” Yet at the same time she notes that Paul exhorts the church in Romans 6:11-14 “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.”
Another passage of Scripture that reveals the truth of the Christian life is found in the first book of John. In I John 3:8-9 we read, “He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” But then we also read in chapter 1:8: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” God says, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin,” and He also says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” What can this possibly mean? I believe that the answer is included in the above quoted passage from Romans 6. Sin no longer has dominion. Christ has won the battle. This does not mean that we cease our fighting against our sins. Our personal fight is necessary so that we see how great our sins are. God also reveals to us that we as believers must live with the battle of our old man of sin and our new man in Christ. We read of this in Romans 7:23-25 “But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.”
I hope these passages from God’s Word and the explanations from the Catechism have helped.
Kate is a member of Faith Protestant Reformed Church in Jenison, Michigan. Scholarship essay for 1999.
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (I Peter 3:15).
What is the most important thing to you in the whole world? What and who do you live and work for each day? Who is the one that forgives us day after day, and year after year when we turn from the good and embrace the evil? Who is our closest friend?
I hope that your answer to each one of these questions is none other than our beloved Savior, Jesus Christ. With our reformed upbringing it is not so difficult to give a correct answer to these questions What is difficult is to live a life that witnesses to others that Christ and His work for us are of utmost importance to us, a life that recognizes that this life is only a pilgrimage in which we exist solely to glorify God. I Peter 4:11 tells us, “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”
Having laid out the Christian’s responsibility in this life, brings me to my topic of the layman’s responsibility in missions. I believe that God’s Word calls each one of us to be involved in missions in one way or another. One responsibility that we are all called to is the mission work God has given each of us at home, witnessing to neighbors and coworkers. Another responsibility of the laymen is to support missionaries with prayer and finances. Laymen can also be directly involved in missions using their talents and spiritual gifts in various areas of the world where a church has been established.
Let me begin by defining mission work: bringing the Word of God to God’s elect in all the nations of the world by the power work of the Holy Spirit. It is evident from the Bible (Acts 13:48, John 10:16, John 3:16) that “the purpose of missions is that the church of Jesus Christ is gathered from the very ends of the earth, so that all the elect of God are united in perfection in glory” (Missions by Rev. C. Hanko). It is important in mission work to recognize that salvation is the work of God, not man, so that when men reject the Word of God, we see it is a result of God’s election and reprobation, rather than our failure in missions. All of our work in missions, whether an ordained minister or a laymen, must be motivated by a deep love for God and for His Word with a desire to glorify Christ through the gathering of the church from all nations.
The laymen’s work in missions must begin at home as witnesses to all around us of the love and justice of God. If we really believe that “we are not our own, but belong to our faithful Savior, Jesus Christ,” (Heidelberg Catechism. A. 1) we will recognize that we do not live for ourselves and for our own success, but rather, we live to love God and obey His Word. I think that many of us are too comfortable in our Christian lives going to church twice on Sunday, memorizing and learning doctrine, supporting the Christian schools and going to society all out of a love of God. But this is not all God calls us to do. The Christian life is not supposed to be an easy, relaxed life; every day is a spiritual battle and conflict. We are called to get out of our comfort zones. Do we speak up for our faith? Are we willing to confront sin? How great is our love for God, and thus, our love for our neighbor? Is it great enough to make others mad at us?
In the Ten Commandments, we are commanded to love our neighbor as our self. Our neighbor is not only fellow Christians, but also the unchurched. I realize how easy it is to get caught up in all the rigors of this life and forget about all God’s people right within our own city and neighborhood who have not yet heard the Word of God. We must ask ourselves, how great is our love for our neighbor, or our fellow co-worker. Do we really love them if we do not witness to them and bring the Word of God to them? What kind of love is that? If we really love someone we will be concerned for their soul, we will witness to them and we will pray for them.
The layman’s involvement goes beyond personal witnessing at home. God calls particular men to be missionaries in various areas of the world. Just because many of us are not called to the ordained ministry, does not mean our work is finished. The prayers and financial support of the laymen back home is an important part of mission work.
We must pray for the spiritual and physical strength of the missionary. We must pray that the Holy Spirit will work in the hearts of the people so that fruit will abound from the work of the missionary. We must pray for the new Christian converts that their faith will grow and will be strengthened and that they can withstand the ridicule and pressure of their peers and family. We must never underestimate the power of prayer. In James 5:16, James, the brother of Jesus, tells us “the effectual fervent prayer of the righteous man availeth much.” God uses our prayers to bring about His purposes.
Financial support is also vital to the work of missions. The missionary needs support for the cost of living, to publish literature, for Bibles and Psalters, and for material of Biblical instruction. Financial support in missions in third world countries (or better named, two-thirds world countries) is also important to meet not only the spiritual needs, but also some of the physical needs of the new church. Humanitarian services must not be used as a propaganda tool for the message of spiritual salvation but part of the ministry to the whole. In Matthew 25:31-40 Christ shows us when we minister to those around us we are in actuality ministering unto Him:
Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
I believe this passage can also be used to support direct, active involvement of laymen in missions. There are many places in the world where a church has been established, and laymen are needed to help with Bible studies, and to teach members of the congregation how to become leaders in the church. Laymen are also needed to meet educational and humanitarian needs. For example, when I was in Haiti, I met Christian men who were specialized in agriculture and who lived in Haiti to teach the Haitians how to farm properly so that their families will not starve in times of famine.
In conclusion, I would like to say that God uses his people wherever they are and with whatever their talents may be. Whether we are out on the mission field thousands of miles away, or whether we live right here in Grand Rapids, opportunities are all around us to be involved in missions. Christ shows us in the parable of the good Samaritan who we must witness to: anyone that we come into contact with. In John 14 we are told that we are the light of the world, and that we must not hide our light under a bushel, but instead, let our “light so shine, that others may see our good works and glorify our Father which is in heaven.” This brings us back to every Christian’s calling on earth. Each one of us must be a witness of the great redemptive work Christ has done within us. God will use our witness to call his church and to bring honor and glory to His name.
Kris is a member of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
We begin this month with a series of short biographies of the ministers of the Protestant Reformed Churches. We have been sending out questionnaires a few at a time and hope eventually to reach all of our ministers. A member of our staff, Kris Moelker, has worked the questionnaires into the article format you find here. We hope you enjoy learning about our ministers and also take with you some important lessons from them. J.H.
Reverend Cornelius Hanko was the son of Herman and Jennie Hanko. His parents were born in the Netherlands. His father was a member of the State Church (Hervormde Kerk) and his mother was a member of the Secession (Afscheiding) of 1834. As a painter, Mr. Hanko provided for the needs of his family.
The youngest of eight children, Rev. Hanko was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on Pentecost Sunday, May 19, 1907. He was raised in the “groninger beurt” which was the Dutch neighborhood in the area of Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids.
Rev. Hanko began his studies at Baxter Christian School. During his first year of school he received his instruction entirely in the Dutch language. He was taught strictly in English Monday through Thursday, and had only Dutch on Friday during the next three or four years. He also attended Grand Rapids Christian High School, Calvin College and the Protestant Reformed Seminary.
While he was growing up, Rev. Hanko’s hobbies included making kites and scooters. He also enjoyed sliding and catching rides on sleighs during the winter. As a young person, Rev. Hanko didn’t experience much peer pressure. “Perhaps this was due to the fact that everyone I knew was on the same financial level. We couldn’t afford peer pressure.” Now he spends his time writing and translating works from Dutch to English.
On September 19, 1928, he married Jennie Griffioen. The Lord blessed their marriage of nearly 45 years with two sons and two daughters.
When asked about the Lord’s leading him into the ministry, Rev. Hanko states, “From my earliest childhood I wanted to enter the ministry. The conflict of 1924 increased this desire. I was a member of Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church at that time. I was personally involved in the controversy and did a great deal of study of the doctrinal questions at issue. Also, the great excitement and enthusiasm connected with the changes that were occurring made me desire the ministry even more. My entrance into the seminary was hastened by the need of ministers in the newly formed Protestant Reformed Churches. Although he lost his friends, Rev. Hanko’s entrance into the ministry was the answer to his parent’s prayers. Four of his sisters stayed with the Christian Reformed Churches and were antagonistic to his intentions. His two sisters who became members of the Protestant Reformed Churches were enthusiastic about his desire for the ministry.
While he was a seminary student, Rev. Hanko spent several months away from home preaching in the new churches because there was a great need for pulpit supply. He preached six months in Northwest Iowa his first year. He spent four months of his second year in Pella, Iowa and was sent to Waupun, Wisconsin for about two months of his third year of seminary.
Rev. Hanko has labored in six congregations during his ministry. His first charge was in Hull, Iowa, where he served as pastor from 1929 to 1935. In 1935, he began his labors in Oak Lawn, Illinois, where he labored for the next ten years. In 1945, the Lord called him to the church in Manhattan, Montana where he served until 1948. In 1948, he was sent to be one of the pastors of First Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In 1964, after serving 16 years in First Church, the Lord called Rev. Hanko to labor in Redlands, California. He labored there until 1971, when he was called to Hudsonville, Michigan. He served as Hudsonville’s pastor until he retired and became minister emeritus in 1978.
In the catechism room, Rev Hanko was always impressed by the ability of young children to remember the lessons. They would listen to the Bible story one week and the next week they “could repeat the entire story complete with the expressions and gestures” he had used during the lesson the week before.
Ministers experience many rewarding things as they labor among the people of God caring for their spiritual needs. The most rewarding experiences for Rev. Hanko were seeing the young people grow and develop spiritually. He also points out that it was spiritually beneficial for him to visit the sick and dying.
With the joys of being a minister, also come great sorrows especially when a minister has to experience a great conflict like the split of 1953. Rev Hanko points out two of his most powerful memories of this split. He remembers how painful it was for him to discipline some of his most intimate friends and colleagues. He was often reminded of Psalm 4l:9 “Yea; mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted which did eat of my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.” He also “regretted that personalities dominated doctrine as the subject of discussion and reason for actions during the controversy.”
Rev. Hanko’s most vivid memories are of the events that he experienced during World War I. “During the winter of 1917, I remember that the schools and the churches were closed because of a lack of coal for heating. In 1918 the churches and schools were again closed for a time, this time because of the flu epidemic. No mere than seven people were allowed to gather for a meeting. During that time anyone who entered a home where there was sickness was in danger of contracting the flu. Some ministers refused to visit the sick because of their fear of the disease. One minister used a ladder so that he could minister to the sick from outside their windows. Funerals were held in the front yards of the homes where one had died so that others could attend and avoid infection.
“Be sure of your calling.” This is the advice Rev. Hanko gives to young men considering the ministry of the Word to be their calling. He also says, “Unless one is called, there is no more difficult or painful work in the world, but if one is called to the ministry, there is no more blessed or rewarding work on earth.”
When asked about what he thinks about the behavior of young people today, Rev. Hanko says that some of the young people seem to be completely indifferent to spiritual things.
Young people seem to let sports “consume most of their time and nearly all of their interest. It seems that most of their evenings are taken by sports, and they only meet for a few brief moments on Sundays.”
Also, Rev. Hanko is told that many of our young people go to movies, dance and drink.
Positively, Rev. Hanko says there are some things that our young people are doing that are encouraging for him the see. “A few of the societies have excellent discussions by well prepared, serious young people.” The young people support and promote the Beacon Lights, and the young people who write articles are concerned about spiritual things. Groups of young people get together to talk and sing psalms on Sunday evenings. “Some young people are willing to become teachers and ministers. The Lord is providing for the future of our churches.”
Rev. Hanko is missionary-pastor of Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Northern Ireland. Reprinted from the mission newsletter circulated in the UK by Covenant PRC.
After He ascended into heaven, our Lord instituted in the church various offices (Eph. 4:8-11). He instituted these offices that those who serve in them might represent Him, and serve His church in their offices. Though He remains the only Head and King of the church, these offices are necessary for the well-being of the church.
There has been much controversy about the number and nature of these offices. Without entering into that controversy, we believe that the offices that remain in the church are three, the offices of elder, deacon and minister.
We say “remain” because there have been other, temporary offices; apostle, prophet, evangelist, etc. These offices, which involved bringing the inspired and infallible Word of God (Acts 21:10-11, Heb. 2:3-4, II Pet. 3:15-16), are no longer necessary, since we now have the completed Scriptures (II Pet. 1:19-21).
That it is only the offices of ruling elder, deacon, and minister that remain is clear, since these are the only offices mentioned in the later epistles of Paul (I Timothy and Titus, especially) where he is giving instruction to the successors of the Apostles. This is further confirmed by the fact that these epistles have to do with “proper behaviour in the church” (I Tim. 3:15) and with “setting things in order in the church” (Tit. 1:5).
Nor are we concerned to argue the point that both the ministers and ruling elders are identified as elders in the New Testament. The fact of the matter is that these three offices have distinct duties and are viewed as separate offices in the New Testament (I Tim. 3 and 4).
What does concern us is the fact that these offices are neglected and forgotten in the church today. Few churches have all three offices, and where the offices are present one often finds deacons doing the work of elders or vice versa, or ministers doing the work of all three. Likewise, in many cases the offices have become nothing more than honorary positions and those who are chosen to them are chosen not on the basis of spiritual qualifications, but of prominence or wealth.
This can only be to the detriment of the church, if Christ has instituted them for the church. Indeed, insofar as the offices are representative of Christ, their absence in the church means that at least in some ways Christ Himself is not present among the people of God, as He ought to be.
We believe (this is another reason we find three offices in the New Testament) that these offices are aspects of Christ’s three-fold office of prophet, priest and king. This is very evident in the offices of ruling elder and minister. It is hard not to see that those two are extensions of Christ’s kingly and prophetic offices. But the office of deacon, properly understood, is, we believe, an extension of Christ’s priestly office, or at least of some aspects of that office (this we hope to show in a forthcoming article).
If that is true, then the offices are that much more important to the church, and may not be neglected as they are today. It is our hope and prayer that they may be restored to their proper place and function.
The next several chapters of Proverbs consist of instructions from a father to his son. Now this was a special father. He was the wisest man to walk upon the face of the earth excluding Christ. The main theme of his message was to get wisdom. Today is a good day to begin to consider this theme. We are considered foolish by most of the world around us for going to church twice and for setting apart the rest of the day in devotion to God. You do that, people of God, don’t you? You have not become “oncers,” have you? You do not use this day for recreation, or allow your children, young people, and grandchildren to do so, do you? We must strive to get wisdom not only today but every day of the week. We must work to obtain the wisdom that does not perish but will last forever. In doing this we will be blessed in this life and in the life to come. Sing Psalter 337:1-4.
We continue with our study of these beautiful words of a father to his son. Verse 13 serves as a summary of today’s section. First of all we must take fast hold of the Godly instruction that is given to us. Whether it be in the home, in the catechism room, from the pulpit, or from a Christian school, we must not let those words of wisdom depart from us. There are many ways we can lose those important words. First of all we can sleep either physically or mentally as those words are said to us. We can scorn them in our minds or to others. We can forget about them because we fail to see their importance. Do not do this, children and young people! Take fast hold on instruction. Secondly we see that we must do this because these words bring to us life. Solomon is not completely dismissing earthly life, but he has more in mind; that is; life with God in heaven. This is the goal of our gaining wisdom. Do that, people of God, do that and be blessed by our covenant heavenly Father. Sing Psalter 333:1-4.
The section to which we turn our attention today is one written in a negative manner. Here, Solomon admonishes his son to avoid evil because there is no good in that way. Did you get that, young people, no good? Notice the four commands found in verse 15: 1) avoid it, 2) pass not by it, 3) turn from it, and 4) pass away. We are not to even come close enough to see what is happening. Don’t go into the theater to see what they do there! There is nothing but evil and filth found on that screen. Don’t turn on that rotten heathen music! Even the world acknowledges that some of its music should not be listened to by young people. Should we be listening to any of it? Do not attend the dance! It will only lead to adultery and fornication. Flee from evil, young people. Teach your young people and children how to flee, parents, and do this not only by word but also by example. In fleeing from evil we will seek the wisdom of Jehovah. Sing Psalter 93.
Young people and children, today’s section also deals with wisdom and evil. But I want to focus on the first six words of verse 20. Do you heed the words of your fathers, both physical and spiritual? Do your dad’s words echo in your minds as you leave the house? Do you ponder the minister’s words after catechism? Are the teachers’ exhortations considered for more than just a grade? You must do this because these figures of authority have been place over you by God Himself. They are not just arbitrary figures in your lives. They are there for a purpose, and that purpose is to teach you the wonderful Word and works of Jehovah. Pay attention to them, listen to them, and then most importantly do what they say. The reason is found in verse 22. Read it! Sing Psalter 343.
Parents, do you let your children and young people hear wisdom from the lips of a strange woman? Solomon was concerned about who taught the covenant seed in his day. He knew that instruction from Satan would bring disastrous results to covenant children and young people. In this chapter we see many examples of such instruction. How about us? Do we turn our children over to the strange woman of television? Even the “innocent” children’s television programs have much evil in them. This is to say nothing of the drama which fills much of the other programming. The videos which are so easy to obtain often have the strange woman portrayed on the cover. The internet allows the strange woman easy access to our young people’s lives. Parents, we must guard our children and young people especially in these areas. Let us not dishonor God in the instruction of the covenant seed. Sing Psalter 146:1-6.
Look at verse nine again. Our honor is something we cherish greatly. We are quick to take offense when someone impugns our honor. In the Middle Ages taking someone’s honor usually meant a duel that might end someone’s life. Are we jealous for our spiritual honors? Are we ready to defend the honor that has been imputed to us by God? This takes work on our part. It is something that must be defended every day and every hour of that day. We cannot take a “time out” from this task. Walking in evil ways only causes us to lose our honor. By losing our honor we will come to the day when we will regret what we have done. Eventually that day will be the judgment day. People of God, keep from evil because it will only bring horrible results in to our lives. Sing Psalter 278.
These verses give powerful instruction concerning marriage and the seventh commandment. The idea of verse fifteen is that we not leave our wives and seek other women for our own pleasure and enjoyment. We must know that our wives are given to us by God. They are not material possessions to be discarded at any whim. The reason for such admonition is two-fold. First of all we must honor the institution of marriage because it is God’s institution. Secondly we see that this sin is not just against our mates but also against God who seeth all things. Like other sins this one has horrible consequences for the sinner and those around him. Young people, as you ponder marriage think about these things even in your dating practices. Dating must have as its goal to find the mate God has prepared for you. If we sin when we date, we probably sin in marriage. Marriage is a beautiful picture of Christ and His church; let us honor that picture. Sing Psalter 360.
In these verses Solomon warns us about the use of our tongues. We must not give promises lightly. If we do this to strangers, we become obligated to them and maybe to an evil way of life. If we do this to friends, we may alienate our friend and cause us personal troubles. Friendship is a wonderful thing. We have a pattern for friendship from Christ. Read the book of John to understand this pattern. Christian friends are a blessing to us. We need to cultivate those friendships. Be careful about with whom you become friends. This, too, is part of wisdom. Sing Psalters 68.
Monday morning rolls around again. Did you pray for help against laziness this morning as you began your school or work week? Laziness is a sin which seeking after God’s wisdom will help prevent. Students, you need to make this part of your prayers as you work in school today and this week. Laziness can happen when you do not pay attention as the teacher is talking. You may be lazy as you do the work that you were assigned. Guard against that sin and work to avoid it. Parents, become examples for your children in this matter. Don’t let your words around the house show that you may be lazy in the workplace. Don’t be lazy there either. Fleeing laziness is a sign that we seek the wisdom which comes from above. Sing Psalter 97.
We might say after reading these verses that they do not apply to us. We might say that we are not naughty persons and would not do any thing that the Lord hates. We might say such things but we would be fooling ourselves and making our sins ten times worse. Paul in Romans writes that “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Take a look at the seven abominations again. We must examine our lives and see that we must flee from these evils. We must see how we do these things and work to not do them. This can only be accomplished by the grace of God wrought for us by Christ. Let us pray daily for sin’s forgiveness, to not be led into temptation, and for deliverance from temptation. Sing Psalter 253:1-5.
There are two main thoughts found in this section. First of all Solomon admonishes his son and us to keep the commandments of our fathers. This is not because our fathers were so great, but rather that our fathers were God-fearing and told us God’s commandments. He tells us to obey these commandments at all times. This is a repeat of the instruction found in Deuteronomy 6. There the emphasis is upon parents’ responsibility. Here the emphasis is on the responsibility of children and teenagers to keep those commandments. The second part of the section teaches us that in walking in these commandments we will stay away from sin. It makes a special point that sin is as dangerous as a hot coal. Handle it and you will be burned! Walk in sin and you will suffer the consequences. Let us heed the admonitions found in this part of God’s Word. Sing Psalter 321.
We see a contrast between sins. Solomon does not excuse the sin against the eighth commandment, for he says that that person must repay. But he shows that thievery, because it is basically outward, does not wound another like adultery. When adultery is committed, there are many who are wronged. There is the woman who is taken in adultery. There is her husband who has been defrauded. And, Solomon states, there is the soul of the adulterer which cannot be soothed with many gifts. Husbands and wives, you must keep yourselves pure from this sin. Young people, in your dating practices, you must be chaste and honorable. If you are not, you will bring suffering on others as well as great grief to your own soul. Walk as the bride of Christ and seek no other. Sing Psalter 83.
Again we find admonitions of Solomon about the keeping of God’s law. Notice how close we must keep them. There are five figures of speech found here: “As the apple of thine eye,” “bind them upon thy fingers,” “write them upon the table of thine heart,” “thou art my sister,” and “call understanding thy kinswoman.” I see two ideas to which we must pay attention. First of all that law must be as close to us as possible. Secondly we must love that law as we love those women whom God has placed in our families. We are to cherish that law and take great pains toward it. Why must we do that? We must do it because that law will protect us and help us to flee from sin. Sing Psalter 42.
This long section shows to us in very graphic language the insidiousness of sin. Sin will seek the child of God out in any way possible in order to cause him to sin more. Sin is sweet and promises many good things. These good things turn out to be the snare which entraps us daily. Satan is as a “roaring lion,” but sometimes that lion is dressed in the clothes of the candy man. Flee sin and live. Sing Psalter 157:1-3; 7-9.
After describing the way that sin leads the young people of God, Solomon once more tells them to listen to him. He tells them that sin has taken even those who appeared to be strong. There is no escaping the evil that sin brings to those who walk in her ways. He finally warns the young people that the way of sin is the way to hell and to the stronghold of Satan. Are you listening, young people? Are you heeding the wise advice of Solomon and your parents, ministers, elders, and teachers? Were you listening, sleeping or being absent from the pew today? Christ speaks to us through the preaching. Were you listening? Listen and do not fall into the way of sin for it has a terrible end. Sing Psalter 217.
There are some who say that this is the chapter which defines all of Proverbs. In it we see wisdom personified, and we find that Christ is wisdom. Let us look at verse nine for a few minutes. Read it again. First of all we see that to understand wisdom and Christ does not take someone of super intelligence. Wisdom’s words are plain to the people of God. There is nothing that may confuse them in the Word of God. Secondly we find that those words are right. They are never wrong. The truth found in that wisdom is plain, straight-forward and never changing. Seek that wisdom, people of God, and you will be seeking something that is better than all the riches of this earth. Sing Psalter 40:1-4.
There are many pearls of truth found in this section. Take a minute and find one that you can wear today. I like verse 17. First of all we see that wisdom is not just some cold dead fact. Wisdom is alive and vibrant. But then, wisdom is Christ. And Christ loves His people with a covenantal love. What a thing for us to treasure! Secondly we must seek wisdom early. There is no having fun when we are young and then finding wisdom. Oh, this may happen, but it is not desirable. We should not condone the sowing of wild oats by our young people. We should encourage them to sow wisdom’s seed. Love wisdom and seek wisdom, people of God, and we will be blessed. Sing Psalter 377:1-3.
In these verses we further see that wisdom and Christ are synonymous. We also find proof for creation. Not to believe in creation is not to believe in Christ. You also cannot believe in some creation and some evolutions as the theistic evolutionist does. To believe a little in creation is to try to believe a little in Christ and that cannot be! Each of these verses shows that God’s work of creation which was done by the Word was thorough and all-encompassing. Creation is a beautiful truth and cannot be ignored. It is either creation and salvation or neither. Sing Psalter 377:4-7.
The final verses of this chapter serve as a conclusion to all that is taught in the chapter. First of all, notice that even our children are commanded to walk in wisdom’s ways. This means that we as parents must instruct them in those ways and see to it that they walk in them. We cannot condone their sins by our compliance or ignorance. Secondly, children and young people, you must not refuse the instruction of your parents, teacher, elders, or ministers. These men and women have been placed in authority over you by God. You must listen to them or you refuse to listen to Christ. Thirdly, seeking wisdom is a full time occupation. We must always be seeking wisdom. Finally, to seek wisdom is to seek eternal life with Christ in heaven, and not to seek wisdom is to seek death in Hell, far removed from Him. Let us seek wisdom whatever age we are and in whatever station or calling we are. Sing Psalter 322.
The first part of this chapter speaks of the house of wisdom. This is no more than the church of Christ. Notice the number seven in the first verse. Seven is the number of the covenant that God has within Himself and also with His people. Do you live in wisdom’s house, people of God? If you do, than you must heed the instruction of that last part of this section. This instruction tells us not to have anything to do with the reprobate. Oh, it does not encourage world flight but rather it encourages us not to mingle with the wicked more than is necessary. Verse ten once again states the theme of the book. We must be seeking the fear of Jehovah and the only way we can do that is to live in His house with His people, our brothers and sisters. Are you doing that tonight, young people? You will not find dancing, movies, or drunken parties in wisdom’s house. You will find fellowship with brothers and sisters of like faith. Seek wisdom and seek her house tonight. Sing Psalter 36.
Did you escape the foolish, clamorous, simple woman last night, young people? Did you escape her wiles and traps? They were all around you because they are the traps of Satan. Notice that she sits where she can be seen. She is on her front porch and at the social meeting places in town or in the country. You might be going where you should be but she will find you there as well. What about tonight, young people? How will you prepare for the Sabbath and worship? If you fall into the simple woman’s clutches, you will not be prepared for either. She will not find you if you are with your family in your home. She will not find you if you are with a group of covenant young people who have determined to be home early. Prepare for the Sabbath and stay out of Satan’s hands. Sing Psalter 61.
Did you notice the pattern found in these nine verses? If not, read the section again. Notice that each verse is made up of two parts connected with the word but. This is a Hebrew poetical device called antithetical parallelism. The first part of the verse tells us what we should and must do, while the second tells us what we should and must not do. While these verses may appear disjointed there are several things which tie them together. The first is the grammatical construction. The second is that the first part of the verse is only done through wisdom. Where can you get this wisdom, people of God? You get it from Him, and today you get it by being found in His house. The worship of Jehovah is a wise thing and something that will be blessed. Seek wisdom and you will seek the path of life. Sing Psalter 387.
We go back to school or work today; this being Monday. Let us take notice of verse 12. In school we have strife. This is displeasing to God and a grief to our parents and teachers, but it happens because of the old man of sin that lies within each of us. What do we do about strife? There are two possibilities. If we hate the person with whom we have a difference, we will constantly stir up that strife. But if we love that person, we will cover that strife with the love of God. This is not easy and can only be accomplished by the grace of God. Notice that to cover sin does not mean to hide it but to forgive it as Christ covered our sins with His blood at the cross. Seek forgiveness and seek to forgive, people of God, and strife will be lessened in our lives. Sing Psalter 24.
There are two thoughts that could be considered in today’s portion of Scripture. We could consider the sins of the tongue. Or we could consider verse 23. We will have occasion to do the former later on in our study. Let us look at verse 23. We have seen how wisdom and the wise are the main themes of this book. Their opposites are the “antitheme.” If we are not wise, we are fools. How many times do you do something, young people or children, which is wrong; and when you are rebuked for it, your reply was, “It was fun.” That is the answer of the foolish. The measuring stick which God will use is not our fun but His glory and wisdom. Learn to use that stick and you will avoid the stick of His wrath. Seek to do good and know wisdom and you will find happiness now and in eternity. Sing Psalter 91.
Notice verse 28. There are some who look at and use the book of Proverbs as a fountain of nice sayings which can guide a person in life. If this is all that we see in this book, we are sadly mistaken and have missed the point. The book of Proverbs is a guide upon the way to eternal gladness. We are on a journey, people of God of all ages, and on this journey God has given to us a guide. Let us follow that guide through our lives or we will have no hope of happiness at all. To use Proverbs as one might use the tales of Aesop is to completely miss the point. To do that is not wise but very foolish. Sing Psalter 28.
The first verse of this section is often used to condemn evil business practices. That is a proper use of the text, I believe, but not the whole use. God has placed each one of us in some labor. It may be that we work at some business, either for ourselves or for someone else. It may be that God has placed us in the home caring for the covenant seed. This is a high calling and one our young women should desire. It may be we are placed in the school room responsible to learn about God’s creation and His works. In each of these callings we must not use a false balance. We may not cheat in any calling, but must give an honest account of ourselves and the abilities that God has given to us. To do otherwise is foolish and an abomination to God. Let us consider our calling and see how we can delight Him in it. Sing Psalter 95.
A general theme found in this section of Proverbs is the walk of sanctification of the righteous. God calls us to walk in a way pleasing to Him. This is done by obeying His commandments as found in His Word. Is this our desire, people of God? Are you planning to do this tonight, young people, as you seek entertainment with your friends? You notice that a benefit of such right living is the well-being of the place where God has placed us. God gives to us a place of peace as we walk in His ways. Otherwise He will add to us woe because of our refusal to seek Him and to walk in His ways. Live a life of sanctification, people of God, and serve Him in all that you do. Sing Psalter 136.
What did you hear last night? This is a common question asked by people of all ages. Sometimes the news is good and bears repeating. Sometimes it is an account of sin and someone’s downfalls and failures. Verse thirteen can serve as a guide in such matters. First of all, we should never speak the lie. That is out and out condemned in the ninth commandment as well as other places of Scripture. Secondly, when we know of someone’s sin, we should not spread it around to other people. Paul’s words to “speak the truth in love” serve as an excellent guide in these kinds of situations. If there is any talking to be done in this situation, let it be done in accordance with Matthew 18. Let us not be talebearers but rather those who seek to build up the saints around us. Sing Psalter 25.
Young people, to whom have you shown mercy lately? “Mercy?” you might ask. “What is that?” Mercy is one of God’s attributes which we must imitate each day of our lives. When we see someone in trouble and we can help them out, we must not miss that opportunity to reflect this attribute of God. Mercy is shown when we comfort those who have been hurt by grievous words. Mercy is shown when we make sure someone is not omitted in our activities. Today, we saw the deacons taking the offering. They are sometimes called the ministers of mercy as they help those whom God has ordained as poor. They do this in their official office. But because we are members of the church of all believers we have the office of believers. One way we carry out that office is to show mercy to those around us. Sing Psalter 69.
Young women, what do you expect to gain with your earthly apparel and outward adornments? Young men, do you seek after the young women who has the best outward apparel and adornments? If the young woman seeks to gain favor with young men or to glorify herself with her outward appearance, she might, but she might also bring herself into ruin. If the young man seeks the young women who looks the best, he might receive her to his own despair. Verse twenty-two has a striking parallelism. This type is called synonymous parallelism. Get a word picture in your mind, young people, and then consider what you want for yourself or for your mate. Just a note of warning, young men. In this day and age the fair woman in the verse could be changed to a handsome man. Young men must watch their desire of appearance as well. Young men and women, cultivate discretion in your lives and then you will be beautiful and handsome in God’s eyes. Sing Psalter 113:1-4.
Sometimes we may look at verse 30 with great puzzlement. This talk about soul-winning is foreign in our thoughts. But taken in the right context this verse can give to us much instruction. In these first eleven chapters of Proverbs, we see constant instruction to seek wisdom and to walk in wisdom’s ways. If we do this. those around us will notice us. God will use our godly walk to bring others to Him. This is the testimony of Scripture and also of the Heidelberg Catechism in Lord’s Day 32. Our walk of sanctification is a necessary walk both in how we appear toward God and toward others. Today is a good day to look at this truth. What will you celebrate tonight—God’s Reformation Day or Satan’s Halloween? Parents, you must direct your children and young people in this matter. Help them to walk a walk of sanctification which is antithetical. Scripture says by “their fruit ye shall know them.” What is your fruit like? Sing Psalter 96.
Beth is a member of Grace Protestant Reformed Church in Standale, Michigan.
I LOVE THE LORD.” This is the confession of God’s people, a confession spoken from a sincere heart. This is the theme for the Psalmist in this Psalter versification of Psalm 116:1-11. We see in this passage that our love of God is rooted in thankfulness to God for mercifully hearing our requests. This mercy is evident in His granting us rest for our souls and caring for us from day to day.
The opening line of this Psalter versification speaks of the truth that is taught us throughout Scripture, that God hears and answers the prayers of His people. We look at several texts that teach us this. First there is Psalm 91:15 which states “He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.” Next we turn to Isaiah 65:24, “And it shall come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.” Finally we turn to the New Testament and to John 15:7, “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” There are times when our prayers are short and humble requests for help and peace. We are then called to accept the answer that God gives even if it is not the one that we want. In that way we are accepting the will of God for our lives.
The third stanza turns us to God’s kindness and righteousness. We experience this in His giving His only Son for our sins. That was really the most amazing gift of all and truly an act of kindness for an undeserving people. We read of this in Titus 3:5: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” God is also full of mercy. He shows this by forgiving our sins even when we commit them repeatedly and repeatedly! This truth is found in Ephesians 2:4-5: “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved).” These acts of mercy are how God helps us in our need. And we respond by saying, “I love the Lord.”
We are reminded of the rest our souls receive from God’s hand in the fourth stanza. It comes to us when we are trusting in Him and when our prayer life is strong. When we spend time meditating on God and speaking with Him then we have the rest of soul. The stanza goes on to speak of how this rest comes from God having delivered us from death’s (or Satan’s) control. Then we are also delivered from all sin and sorrow. These gifts are part of God’s goodness and mercy. Oh, how beautifully it all fits together! Again we respond by saying, “I love the Lord.”
Since the Lord has freed my eyes from tears and kept my feet from evil ways, we are redeemed from life’s distressing fears. This is the idea conveyed in the fifth and sixth stanzas. When all human help fails the Lord is always there to help. It is easy for us to turn to the world in our times of need but it is really the Lord that is ever faithful to us. God has provided means in the world for our assistance but we must always remember that it is really from God.
God does preserve His people. This does not mean that we never suffer afflictions and troubles but it means that God will be our God through it all. We have seen this throughout this Psalter versification. God hears our prayers, He is merciful to us, and He grants us rest for the soul. Nothing can restrain us from making the confession, “I LOVE THE LORD.”
Rev. Koole is pastor of Faith Protestant Reformed Church in Jenison, Michigan. Speech given at the Young People’s Convention, Redlands, 1999.
I subscribe to a weekly news magazine that reports and assesses the world’s news and events from a Christian perspective. In that magazine is an advertisement of a college named Knox College—after the great Scottish Reformer of the late 1500’s who studied in Geneva under Calvin and Beza. The advertisement list the characteristics it wants to impart to its students: Knowledge, Faith, Zeal, and Courage. What a list of worthwhile and admirable characteristics: Knowledge, Faith, Zeal, and Courage.
Think about it. Assess your life. To what extent do these things characterize you? Imagine having a denomination, a church full of young people filled with knowledge, faith, zeal, and courage! What a testimony to Christ Jesus we would bear.
Zeal—which has to do with energy and a desire to be active in your faith. Courage—a willingness to bear reproach and sneers, and thru it all to stand for Christ and the truth.
But notice where the list starts—with “knowledge,” placing it even before faith. Can that be right? Yes, absolutely, when you are talking about conscious, active faith. You have to know something about someone before you can believe in him and trust him. Knowledge IS the foundation on which all else is built. You have to understand who Christ is in order to follow him yourself, and that is especially true if you are going to explain to others who he is, and why Christianity is so important to you.
If you are serious about being a witness to a generation that may well be the last generation living when Christ returns then you must be serious about knowledge—biblical, doctrinal knowledge. We live in a generation that despises biblical knowledge. If we follow suit, we will have nothing worth contributing at all.
The late Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, a preacher of renown this century in the English speaking world, made an interesting comment. He said, “I spend half my time telling Christians to study Doctrine, and the other half telling them that Doctrine is not enough.”
I find that an insightful statement. I wonder which part of the statement catches our attention, which do we feel needs the emphasis in our own circles? Would it be the underscoring of the importance of knowing our doctrine, or the reminder that just knowing our doctrine is not enough?
Probably the latter, the reminder that just knowing doctrine, be it ever so precise, is not enough. If we are going to be true witnesses, and lights in the world, more is needed than that.
There is truth to that. Doctrine is not enough.
But what I found interesting was that this Dr. Lloyd-Jones did not just say, “Knowledge is not enough,” or “Knowledge is not important,” or ‘There is way too much emphasis on knowledge these days.” He said, “I spend half my time telling Christians to study doctrine.”
Half his time!
Under Lloyd-Jones’ ministry hundreds of young college students were converted to the Christian faith (to a Calvinism), and they were the ones who, full of zeal, would ask him, “Dr Lloyd-Jones, what must we do to remedy the deadly situation in England?” At that time the whole Church in England was going dead and apostate.
Today, according to polls, less than 5% of the people of Great Britain (meaning England, Scotland and Wales) even have church membership. Mind you, we are talking not about regular church attendance, or about Calvinism, or a living faith. Just church membership! Less than 5% bother about church anymore at all, Christianity in any form.
This is England and Scotland, mind you, the land of John Knox, and of the Puritans, and John Owens, and the Westminster Confession, of Presbyterianism and the Pilgrims. The light of Christianity in every sense has all but gone out, and the same is true across the whole of Europe.
The land of the spiritual ancestry of most of us here, the Netherlands, is almost the same as far as even church attendance goes. Who cares about even acting like a Christian, reading a Bible or praying anymore. It is an absolute waste of time. That is what has taken place in the whole of Europe during this past century.
So, these young college students wanted to know what they could do to change the trend perhaps, and to practice a vital, living Christianity. And the answer Lloyd-Jones gave again and again was, “You have to study doctrine. You have to know the Christian faith and what you believe. And not only what you believe, but Who you believe in and Who he is and what his apostles taught and why. Knowledge! and more doctrinal knowledge, that is the crying need of the day.”
And the thing about Lloyd-Jones was that he was one of the very few of his day in England who insisted that this was so. What is interesting is that other preachers saw the deadness taking over, they saw their churches emptying out, their young people going every which way, and they said the exact opposite! They said knowledge was to blame, doctrinal knowledge. It was knowledge that had led to the dead orthodoxy. It was the great evil.
What was needed, they said, was more emphasis on action and involvement, and on liturgy and ritual and congregational participation. Anything but knowledge. And that is what they did.
The question is, did it help? The proof is in the pudding. What is left today in protestantism in Great Britain? Hardly a thing. The downward trend continues. And no one seems to know why.
The point is Lloyd-Jones knew why. And that’s why when young, newly converted Christians came to him asking him what was the key and what it was they needed if they were to be of use to stem the tide, or at least preserve what remained. The Doctor’s reoccurring answer was —“Knowledge, doctrinal knowledge. That is the key.” And then “No, that is not all that is needed. But if we do not recover that, there is no hope for merry old England, none at all.”
Now I realize that that does not sound glamorous, and exciting. Action and involvement and doing things sounds more attractive. But without sound biblical knowledge all the doing and action in the world will not do the church or others any good. And you will not do yourselves any good either.
This diagnosis was not just made by the good Doctor. It was made by God thousands of years ago. The Spirit declared through the prophet Hosea, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee” (4:6).
Without proper Biblical knowledge they were susceptible to every doctrinal error. They had no answer, no spiritual immunities. They were easily infected with doctrinal error. And it swept them away like the Black Plague.
This we must keep in mind. Without knowledge who will bear witness? There will be no one left. Who can you turn to for answers if nobody don’t know nothing!
Somebody should have some answers. Why should you be embarrassed if that someone is you?
But before one acquires knowledge one must have the conviction that the acquiring of knowledge is important, and therefore worth seeking. Acquiring Biblical knowledge takes work. That’s the problem. Is it worth it? You must be convinced in your own heart it is.
Without knowledge you would be like Ahimaaz. I wonder how many here remember who Ahimaaz was. He was a postman, a mailman of sorts, that is, a carrier of messages for King David at time of war.
If you recall Ahimaaz ran for Joab the general right after Joab’s forces defeated Absalom’s. Joab sent Cushi running to deliver the news to David who was waiting anxiously at the gate. It was then that Ahimaaz begged to be sent, too. Finally Joab relented.
Well, Ahimaaz was faster than Cushi, and overtook him and got to David first if you recall. There was just one problem; when Ahimaaz got to David he did not know what to say, that is, the answer to all of David’s questions. He did not have sufficient KNOWLEDGE, And so for all his zeal and energy, he failed.
Cushi ran slower and came later, but Cushi had something Ahimaaz lacked, namely, knowledge, and so could give David the information he sought. David was not so thrilled with the news, “What about my son Absalom?” “Well, Absalom is where all your enemies ought to be, 0 king, dead as a dodo.” But Cushi was the better messenger for all that.
The point is, remember Ahimaaz. Zeal to carry the message and energy in bearing witness is fine and wonderful, but if you are ignorant of the message, your usefulness is going to be severely curtailed.
Knowledge is not the only thing. True. Still knowledge is foundational, and in this age of such appalling ignorance, it is the most basic spiritual thing. To be numbered amongst those who still have some knowledge about what the Bible teaches and the Reformed faith has believed for centuries is of greatest benefit and importance.
You and I need to know these things not just as a feather in our own caps, but because it is going to be for the benefit of others who simply have never been told or taught. Or, what they have been taught as Calvinism is in fact the complete opposite of what it really is.
(Next time Rev. Koole will show us how we must use this knowledge of the truth.)
Hold on My child
I have not forgot.
You may feel abandoned
But I leave you not.
You may feel alone
But I am always near.
You may be afraid
But there is nothing to fear.
For you are My children
You are held safe in My care
You are my sheep
My love to you I share.
I am the LORD thy Father
And you My children shall be
Held within My hand
For all eternity.
Sometimes I take you
Before you have lived life below
And sometimes there were burdens
And My reasons I did not show.
But through it all I’ve been beside you
To hold you up along the way
And I have been behind you
To catch you when you sway.
You have never left my sight
I was always there
You may not have felt My presence
But I held you from the devil’s snare.
Each time you thought
That no one was aware or understood
I was the one who was there for you
—like no one ever could.
Again I must remind you My child
I thy Father am.
I hold you close to my breast
Within My holy hand.
I will never leave thee nor forsake thee
No need to ever fear
Feel safe and feel protected
All within My care.
Aaron is a member of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
For Thy Truth’s Sake—A Doctrinal History of the Protestant Reformed Churches, by Herman Hanko. Reformed Free Publishing Association, Grandville, MI. 2000. Pp. xxvi-541 (hardcover).
As the title appropriately states, this book is a summary of the doctrinal development of the Protestant Reformed Churches over the seventy-five years of her existence. Beyond that, the author shows how the doctrinal struggles from the time of the Synod of Dordt and through the Secession of 1834 along with the Doleantie of 1886 have helped to shape the Protestant Reformed Churches.
As the Editor’s Foreword states, this “significant” (p. xiii) book was commissioned for the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Protestant Reformed Churches in June of 2000. It “records and celebrates the mighty work of our faithful covenant God in giving, preserving, developing, and proclaiming the truth of His absolute sovereignty and particular grace in Jesus Christ” (p. xiii). In the foreword also comes the warning that the book is not an “‘easy read’ as books go today” (p. xiv). It requires careful and studious reading, especially for those who may be new to the Protestant Reformed faith. “Let Protestant Reformed members read it and grow in appreciation for their denomination and her doctrines. Let other readers give this book a fair hearing, evaluating it in the light of the history, and, of course, Scripture and the confessions” (pp. xiv-v). The Protestant Reformed reader ought to be especially interested in carefully reading this book, for it clearly sets forth the PRC’s reason for existence. As the author asks in the Preface, “What are the doctrinal distinctives that set them (the PRC) apart from other churches—also those in the Reformed tradition?” (p. xvi). These doctrinal distinctives and how they came into being through the struggles of 1924 and 1953 are recorded in the book.
The book is divided into five main parts, the first section dealing with the roots of the PRC in the Netherlands and then in the Christian Reformed Church. An interesting story retold on page 4 sets the tone for the whole book because it summarizes the battle that the Church of Christ has always fought in its defense of the truth. A story is told of a small church building in the province of Gronigen, the Netherlands. It belonged to the Secessionists who followed Hendrik De Cock out of the apostate state church into a new denomination. On the left side of the entrance was an inscription on a stone slab which read “Man Nothing;” and on a piece of granite on the right side were engraved the words “Christ Everything.” Those two inscriptions, so the story goes, made the entrance too narrow for many people in the village, and they chose to worship in the “Large Church” where the worship and the preaching fit their broader outlook on life.
The second section of the book deals with the origin of the PRC and the common grace controversy of 1924. Once again, the author is careful to point out from the writing of Rev. Hoeksema and Rev. Danhof that, “from a doctrinal point of view, the history of the church is characterized by a prolonged struggle to maintain the doctrines of sovereign and particular grace” (pp. 47, 48). This struggle, Rev. Hoeksema was involved in for many years within the Christian Reformed Church prior to 1924, when finally he, along with Rev. Danhof and Rev. Ophoff, was put out of the CRC. It was only after it became clear that the doctrine of sovereign and particular grace could no longer be maintained within the CRC that the PRC came into existence.
The third section of the book is entitled “The Positive Development of the Truth.” In this portion of the book the author records the development of certain doctrines within the PRC as they emerged from the struggle of 1924. Since many of these doctrines were at the center of the controversy in 1924 and intimately related to the doctrine of sovereign and particular grace, it was natural that there would be a development in these doctrines in the early years of the denomination. In this section, the reader will find an explanation of “The Sovereign Grace of Miracles” (chapter 7), “The Doctrine of the Antithesis” (chapter10), and “The Meaning of the Concept ‘Organic’” (chapter 12). Particularly interesting is chapter 12, which deals with the term ”organic.” Early, it seems, in the history of the PRC the average member had a firm grasp on the concept “organic.” However, as the author notes in a footnote (10, p. 234), it seems that this is no longer the case today. I have learned, sometimes to my dismay, that if I use the term “organic” in theological discussion, I am met with blank stares and puzzled looks. In fact, it is difficult to explain to others, unfamiliar with the term, what it really means.
Later in the same chapter, in a sub-section about “Man as Organism,” the author points out how the PRC differ radically with Arminians in this area.
Arminianism is an individualistic religion which has no sense of organic unity of corporate responsibility. In the work of salvation, because each man is a major contributor to his own salvation, the old adage holds: “Every man for himself, and the devil take the hindmost.” God makes salvation possible to individuals who exercise their own free will. The result is that a crowd, a conglomerate, a mass of individuals who accept Christ is saved, but not an organism, the organism of the body of Christ. This is a fatal flaw in Arminianism and Pelagian thinking, as fatal as the error of free will.
Section four of the book deals with the distinctively Protestant Reformed doctrine of the Covenant. This doctrine, as the PRC have it today, was born out of the Schism of 1953. Much of the original source information for this section is taken from the writings of Protestant Reformed ministers as they put their thoughts and convictions on paper in the Standard Bearer and Concordia during this time. An example of this is Rev. Vos’ observation of the spiritual health of the PRC in the years prior to this split in 1953. We read on pages 277 and 278 in the first volume of Concordia, that the editor, Rev. Gerrit Vos, expressed some concern about the fact that the churches were not as spiritually strong as in the early years of their history. This was evident, he wrote, from the poor attendance at the pre-synodical prayer service and the graduation exercises of the Theological School.
Many portions of the section on the covenant require careful and studious attention by the reader. The reader may find it profitable to re-read these sections in order that they may be fully understood. But what good is a book that goes no deeper than what can be understood by a quick skimming over?
The fifth and final section, “Concluding Considerations,” briefly deals with a few important doctrines maintained within the PRC. These doctrines are mentioned within the framework of the six loci of “dogmatics” (p. 401).
At the end of the book are a number of appendices which the reader will be interested in. They include a couple of things that even the Protestant Reformed reader may have never seen before, including the majority and minority reports of a classical committee regarding the protests of Hoeksema and Ophoff at a meeting of Classis East in May of 1953. The information found in the appendices sheds light on the events surrounding the history of the PRC.
The footnotes, found on nearly every page, are another aspect of the book the reader will not want to overlook. In fact, if the footnotes are skipped or merely glanced at, the reader severely handicaps his ability to profit from the reading of the book. Another helpful aspect of the book is the section of “Illustrations” found in the heart of the book. The pictures and drawings are helpful, in that the reader is able to put faces on the many names that are mentioned throughout the course of the history. Some of the pictures have never before been seen by many PR readers.
The young men and women of the PRC ought to make a diligent effort to obtain and read this book. Even though it may be quite long, and some sections require careful attention to detail, it is profitable reading. All those who love the truth as God has given it to the PRC and as it is recounted in this book can only make the confession, “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy and for thy truth’s sake” Psalm 115:1.
The late Rev. Heys was a minister in the Protestant Reformed Churches from 1941 to 1980. Reprinted from the April, 1947 issue of Beacon Lights.
In our last installment in this department of early New Testament church history, we called your attention to the rise of the Arian doctrine which denied the divinity of Christ. We called your attention to the fact that this doctrine denied one of the indispensable requisites for our salvation. If Christ is not very God as well as very man, we have no salvation. He is not able to save us. Thus this Arian doctrine must be thoroughly rejected. It is our purpose now to show you how the church dealt with this heresy which troubled the early New Testament church in the beginning of the fourth century.
A Synod was called in the year 321, which condemned this doctrine and called for the deposition of Arius, the founder and mouthpiece for this evil doctrine. As could be expected, Arius sought to defend himself after his deposition. He appealed to many of his friends who were famous bishops. He also resorted to ingenious methods of spreading his false views. We think that singing commercials are something rather modern. But historians tell us that Arius made use of popular songs to spread his views abroad. In parenthesis we might drop the remark here that countless numbers of hymns today are so extremely dangerous because they are the instruments of those who teach false doctrines. Arius was certainly aware of the fact that a thought brought into the mind on the wings of a song is not easily put out of that mind again. The lilting or otherwise pleasing melody serves to make it stay there and become a part of you.
Arius himself was a man given to a very strict way of living. His walk to all outward appearances was wholly that of a Christian. Living as he did amid an age of all manner of corruption in the clergy, this strict way of living had its appeal to many serious-minded believers in that day, and Arius gained many followers because of this fact. Men could not believe that he was the author and founder of a dangerous heresy.
The result was that the two factions began to become distinct, and a split in the Eastern Church not only seemed imminent; it was becoming increasingly plain that this split already existed due to Arius’ views and deposition.
Constantine who had made Christianity the state religion and brought about this religious peace—at least in the outward sense—being greatly displeased at this turn of events, called an Ecumenical Council to meet at Nicaea to settle this problem which he, not understanding the true nature of the split, called a needless quarrel.
The council met in the year 325, and was composed of 318 bishops. The majority of these bishops either held or were favorably inclined to the view of Arius. Athanasius was one of the chief defenders of the truth at this council and through his vigorous defense of the truth of the divinity of Christ, Arius was excommunicated for his heresy, his doctrine was condemned, and his books were ordered to be burned.
The creed adopted by this Council of Nicaea contained the following beautiful expression of the divinity of Christ, “I believe in one God…. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.”
It is not difficult to see in this expression what phrases Were directed against the views of Arius. Especially that last section which reads, “Begotten not made, being of one substance with the Father” is aimed directly at the false doctrine of Arius that although Christ was created before the worlds, He is yet a creature. The bone of contention in this controversy was exactly there that Arius denied that Christ was of the same substance with the Father. To say that He is of the same substance is to say that He is divine, God of God. The church, under the guidance of the Spirit Who leads into all the truth, rightly saw the danger of this heresy and was led to formulate a creed which preserves for us today the truth of the divinity of Christ and thus the possibility of our salvation.
Arius refused to subscribe to this expression layed down by the Council of Nicaea and was exiled to Illyria, but the church now had a richer expression of the truth and all things have been subservient to Gods purpose.
J.P. de Klerk is an author and journalist from Ashherst, New Zeeland.
This castle in a big, old forest in the German former state of Thüringen was built in 1070, by a Duke Lodewijk. It remained in the family until 1243, when it was taken over by Duke Von Meissen and his relatives until 1495. Several buildings were added or altered, in different styles. The oldest part is called the Landgrafenhaus (the house of the Landgraves) with the Sängersaal (the hall for the singers) in Romanesque style. However, the Wartburg became famous by the residence of Dr. Martin Luther from May, 1521, until March, 1522, under the pseudonym Junker George (because he was put under a ban, proscribed since January 1, 1521). Here he translated the New Testament in 12 weeks and wrote several letters and pamphlets. He was reading books in which he wrote comments in the marginal line, like, for example “simul iustus ac peccator” (sinner and justified in one).
Rome officially charged Luther with forty-one errors. The Bull of Excommunication and Anathema, that which every Roman Catholic fears most, described his “errors” as a “pestiferous virus;” a serpent creeping through the field of the Lord. But God was with Luther.
Connie is the mother of 5 children and a member of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Krystal apologized for breaking the vase and making a mess. She helped her mother clean it up.
“Well, I know you didn’t break it on purpose,” Mother comforted Krystal. “And there is one more consolation. At least the tulips weren’t in our good heirloom vase. The vase that broke can easily be replaced.”
They went to the cupboard to see what else they could put the tulips in.
“How about this canning jar?” Krystal said as she set it on the counter. She was worried about knocking the tulips over again, and she knew there were plenty of canning jars to spare.
“That’s a possibility,” Mother said, “but I had something a little fancier in mind. Hm, maybe we’ll have to get the good vase out after all. I don’t see anything else.” She reached towards the back of the cupboard where the heirloom vase was stored and carefully put it on the counter next to the canning jar.
“The tulips would be beautiful in the vase,” Krystal agreed.
“Yes, canning jars are good for peaches,” Mother added, “and vases are good for tulips.”
Krystal gathered the tulips together, minus a few petals, and Mother filled the vase with water. They arranged the tulips together.
“You know,” Mother said thoughtfully, “this reminds me of something else. Look at the jar. Now look at the vase. Two vessels, made for two different purposes. That’s the ‘U’ in TULIP—unconditional election! God made some people to be elect, and He made others to be reprobate. He didn’t look ahead, either, to see who would believe. We believe because we’re elect. There’s a text in Scripture that even explains it this way.” (to be continued)