Vol. LXXI, No. 6; June 2012
Beacon Lights is published monthly by the Federation of Protestant Reformed Young People's Societies. Subscription price is $15.00. Please send all correspondence, address changes, subscriptions, and article submissions to the business office.
The articles of Beacon Lights do not necessarily indicate the viewpoint of the Editorial Staff. Every author is solely responsible for the contents of his own article.
The Beacon Lights encourages its readers to contact the business office with any questions or comments. Letters may be edited for printing. We will not publish anonymous letters, but will withhold names upon request.
If any material of Beacon Lights is reprinted by another periodical, we will appreciate your giving the source and forwarding the printed periodical to the business office.
Ryan is assistant editor of Beacon Lights and a member of Grandville Protestant Reformed Church in Grandville, Michigan.
I John 4:19 instructs us, “We love him, because he first loved us.” This is such a simple phrase from Scripture that is overflowing with meaning. All of the love we show in our lives hinges on these few words. The reason we can love God is that he loved us first, and the way we can show our love for God is to love those around us. In turn, we do not truly love God unless we have this brotherly love. We cannot truly love God unless we keep his commandments. When we keep his commandments, we are showing love to our neighbor. When we love our neighbor we are showing love to God. Do you see how this all comes full circle? You cannot have one aspect of love unless you have them all.
By truly loving God we reflect his glorious image in us with no glory to ourselves. We can do this only by his working in us through the Holy Spirit. “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us” (2 Cor. 4:6–7).
There is great emphasis placed on love throughout the whole of Scripture. The law of God is based on love, as is seen in the summary of the law given by Jesus in Matthew 22:37–40. “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Truly loving God and our neighbor is upholding all ten of the commandments of the law.
Paul also stresses the great importance of love:
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing (I Cor. 13:1–3).
We may be gifted in many areas of life, we may have so great a faith as to perform miracles, we may sell all that we have and give to the poor, but if all of this does not proceed from a true love for God and our neighbor it is worthless! John Calvin in his commentary on I Corinthians has a good explanation of this thought:
…that everything be regulated according to the rule of love. This, then, is the most excellent way, when love is the regulating principle of all our actions. And, in the outset, he proceeds upon this—that all excellencies are of no value without love; for nothing is so excellent or estimable as not to be vitiated [corrupted or faulty] in the sight of God, if love is wanting…It is not then to be wondered, if all our deeds are estimated by this test—their appearing to proceed from love. It is also not to be wondered, if gifts, otherwise excellent, come to have their true value only when they are made subservient to love (Calvin’s Commentaries, Vol. 20, 418–19).
We now consider a few different ways love is shown: God’s love for us, our love for God’s children, and our love for our enemies.
Think of someone or something you love in your life. It means something to you. In your eyes, it is beautiful. It is something to be cherished and protected. God loves us. He thinks we are beautiful. In light of what his Son has accomplished on the cross, we are beautiful in the sight of God. We as his church are what he cherishes and protects. He has protected us through all of time, from the very beginning. Adam was created in the image of God and was perfect and holy. He was sinless and therefore guiltless. But by sinning, Adam lost the image of God. The image of God in man was not just gone. It was twisted the opposite way into wickedness. The Canons of Dordrecht state: “…revolting from God by instigation of the devil and abusing the freedom of his own will, he forfeited these excellent gifts, and on the contrary entailed on himself blindness of mind, horrible darkness, vanity, and perverseness of judgment, became wicked, rebellious, and obdurate in heart and will, and impure in his affections” (Canons 3, 4.1). But God, “in his admirable wisdom and goodness, seeing that man had thus thrown himself into temporal and spiritual death, and made himself wholly miserable, was pleased to seek and comfort him…promising him that he would give His Son” (Belgic Confession, Art. 17; my emphasis). God so loved us that he did indeed fulfill the covenant he made in the Garden. When man fell, God cursed the seed of the serpent and promised Eve that her seed would have the victory. He kept his covenant even when the church was down to just the eight souls of Noah and his family. He kept that covenant when he gave Abraham and Sarah a son in their old age. He kept that covenant when he led Israel out of the bondage of Egypt and into the land of Canaan. He kept that covenant even through a host of wicked kings ruling over his chosen people. He kept that covenant when he sent his Son to die the cursed death of the cross to pay for all our sins. By this redemptive work on the cross, he sees us as beautiful! Even as sinfully ugly as we are, he still sees us as beautiful.
We love God by keeping his commandments. “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (I John 5:2, 3).
Our love for God cannot exist if we do not love our brethren. “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (I John 4:20). We are called to brotherly love. God has deemed our brother or sister in Christ as perfect through Christ. Do you see how the contradiction can arise? We cannot say we love God and then hate someone who is in the image of God. By the instigation of the devil through the workings of the old man of sin in us, we by nature hate God and our neighbor. But God commands us to look at our brethren just as he looks at us. We already have seen how God views us through Christ’s redemptive work on the cross. Blameless! Guiltless! Under the shadow of the cross, we have no sin. This is how we are commanded to look at our brothers and sisters in the church.
Now let’s put this in the perspective of our day-to-day dealings with our brethren. How are we dealing with our friends and families? Here is a passage we should read often. “Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all. Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye” (Col. 3:11–13). We need to stop ourselves when we are holding a grudge against someone, or when we are about to backbite someone, or when we think to ourselves, “but they did this to me!” No, it’s not about what they did to us; it’s about our attitude towards them. Then we must refer again to those verses in Colossians.
According to John 13, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. Even as Jesus did, so also ought we to wash the feet of our brethren not because they are dirty in the sight of God and we must make it our calling to wash them. But we wash them in the humbleness of our hearts. We wash their feet by building them up, by seeking their well-being, and by striving to help them in whatever ways we can. We are called to go out of our way to help them. We need to realize that our lives are not to consist of me, Me, ME! We must live our lives as a sacrifice for those around us.
Jesus in Matthew 5:44 instructs us this way: “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” A few verses preceding these words, Jesus says “…whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” This implies not seeking revenge against our enemies when they attack us. By loving our enemies we are putting in their sight, plainly and unavoidably, an example of the love we have for God.
One remarkable example of a love of one’s enemies was the martyr, Stephen. Stephen’s final words before he was stoned to death by his enemies were, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge” (Acts 7:60). Would our last words be those of forgiveness to the ones who in such hatred would put us to death? The verse goes on: “And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” As soon as he had said the words, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge” he died. From this we can gather that it was not before the mob stoned him that he forgave them, but it was as the stones were hitting his body that he said these words. What an outstanding example of faith and confidence in God! You may be sure that his prayer to God in that moment had a lasting effect on those present. We can confidently say this because of one person who was present. Scripture tells us a young man named Saul was there. This Saul was the later converted apostle Paul, stopped like a dead man in his tracks by Christ on the road to Damascus. You can imagine in the days following his conversion, that if it did not before, Stephen’s final prayer along with Paul’s other persecutions of the church struck his heart.
Consider now the parable of the good Samaritan. A Jewish man on the road between Jericho and Jerusalem is attacked by bandits. He is robbed of everything he has, even the clothes on his back. He is beaten to the point of near death and left on the side of the road to die. A priest happens upon the man, but passes by. The same happens with a Levite man whose business apparently was far too important to help the brother in need. Finally, a Samaritan passing by stops to help the man. In order to understand fully the magnitude of a Samaritan helping a Jew, you must understand the history of these two peoples. They were constantly at each others’ throats. There was constant strife between the two nationalities, so much so that it would have been unheard of for one to help the other, even in the smallest way. Nevertheless, this Samaritan cleans the man’s wounds, puts him on his own donkey, and brings him to the nearest town. Not only does he buy a room in an inn, but he cares for the man overnight at his own expense. The Samaritan man sacrificed his own money and time to care for the Jewish man. The self-sacrifice this man had for his enemy is outstanding, and something that we must take to heart when dealing with our neighbors, whether they be Christian or not.
What can we say then except thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift! He freely gave his only Son in order to pay for our sins. He established a covenant with our fathers and has upheld it and will do so forever. So great is his eternal love towards us! What a selfless act of love for the church. This is what we must strive to reflect in our lives. By the love of God for us and in us, we are enabled to love him and our neighbor. We must do this. We are commanded to do this. We can do this, not of any will or power in ourselves, but only by way of the one who loved us first!
Brianna is a member of Edgerton Protestant Reformed Church in Edgerton, Minnesota.
Thank you for publishing the article by Chelsea Kamps, entitled “Life is Hard, but God is Good,” in the February 2012 issue. While mental disorders, including depression, anxiety, and many others are hard to understand for some people, they are very real to others. God uses these trials in our lives to strengthen our faith, and makes us completely trust and depend on him for all things.
As Chelsea mentions, it is difficult to suffer from a mental illness as a Christian because we believe and confess that the providence of God is always for our good. However, the devil so often brings us the lie and makes us want to walk farther and farther from God. It is when we realize the truth of God’s faithfulness, promises, and grace that we can reject the lie.
I hope that Chelsea’s article helps young people and young adults who feel ashamed or scorned by their mental illness. This is a serious thing that can’t be taken lightly. It may get easier over time with the help of medication or therapy, but it may never completely be taken away. We may pray as Paul did for the thorn to be removed, but also must learn that his grace is sufficient if the thorn remains.
Personally suffering through a mental disorder has strengthened my prayer life, increased my faith, and made me thankful for those whom God has placed in my life to support me through it. This is my desire for all those who suffer such a sickness. We can rely on our heavenly Father because he will always see us through.
Stephen is a member of First Protestant Reformed Church of Edmonton, Alberta.
I write this letter in response to several comments you made in your letter in the March 2012 issue of the Beacon Lights. These comments largely deal with this statement of yours: “Furthermore, the Protestant Reformed Churches are to be commended not only for denying ordination to homosexuals, women, and homeschoolers, but in whole-heartedly condemning the practice in wicked, ungodly, apostate churches.”
First, I wish to state that homeschoolers are not to be included in the list of such wicked and vile sins as homosexuality and women office-bearers. These two things are clearly against the Word of God. Passages such as I Timothy 2:11–12, 15 and Romans 1 explicitly declare that homosexuality and female officebearers are against the Scriptures. However, I have never read anything in the Bible that declares homeschoolers are sinners and in error.
My other point is that it is not the teaching of the PRC that there are to be no homeschooling office-bearers or even homeschooling ministers. To make this clear I will quote liberally from the 2009 Acts of Synod.
3. That synod uphold the position that it is the calling of every consistory member (ministers and elders) in the Protestant Reformed Churches to uphold Article 21 of the Church Order by word and by example.
a. This implies:
1) That they see to it that there are, if at all possible, good Christian schools…. This requires of the Ministers and of the Consistories to take to heart, with all their strength and their gifts, the support and the construction of Christian Schools (CRC Acts of Synod 1892, Art. 23).
2) That where such schools are established, the consistories have a calling:
a) to inquire of those parents who do not use the established Protestant Reformed schools their reasons for not using them, and
b) to urge upon them the wisdom of fulfilling their covenant calling by educating their children together in these schools and
c) to admonish them if there is indication that they are not fulfilling the demands of the covenant to the utmost of their power in the education they provide for their children.
3) That, therefore, where there are such schools, the officebearer must send his children to those schools unless there are valid reasons not to do so, and that such reasons are subject to the judgement of the consistory.
I would specifically like to call your attention to 3) of the last paragraph. First, notice that “where there are such schools” and “unless there are valid reason not to do so.” This shows that there are conditions when a homeschooler may and may not hold office.
Also that the PRC approves of homeschooling as a way to educate our covenant children is shown in this quotation.
Synod proceeds with the recommendations of the committee of pre-advice.
4. That synod uphold the decisions of Synod 2008 and Classis East by which they declared that “homeschooling falls within the area of Christian liberty.”
Ground: Since Scripture does not legislate the precise manner in which the education of covenant children should take place, covenant parents have freedom in determining the particular form in which this instruction is given.
a. One aspect of Christian liberty is that the conscience is not bound by the doctrines and commandments of men – the believer may do what God’s law does not forbid, and refrain from whatever God’s law does not require. In matters not legislated by God’s law, he has the freedom to serve the Lord according to the dictates of his conscience (James 4:12; Romans 14:4; Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 20:2).
b. Although the Christian day schools of Article 21 are rooted in and are proper applications of biblical principles, they are not the only legitimate way of instructing children according to the demands of the covenant.
c. Thus, homeschooling can also be a legitimate form of education for some parents, and in some instances is the best option available.
Finally, I wish to state that only where Christian day schools exist, is an officebearer bound to send his children to that school. The later part of Article 86 makes this clear, because an officebearer is called to be a good and uplifting example to the rest of the congregation.
Where such schools are established, each consistory member—unless there are special circumstances—must send his children to these Christian schools that he is called to promote. He is called to be an example (I Cor. 4:16; 11:1; Phil. 3:17; II Thess. 3:7).
Therefore, in summary I reprove you for including homeschoolers with such heinous sins as homosexuality and female officebearers. Also, I correct you for wrongly stating the position of the PRC regarding the matter of homeschooling officebearers.
Although this letter is addressed to Derek Vanden Akker and not to the editor, I acquiesced to Stephen Mulder’s request to publish his missive, and the Letters rubric seemed as good a place as any. Mr. Mulder’s letter concludes the discussion concerning home schooling—Editor.
Matt is a doctoral student at the University of Michigan and a member of the Beacon Lights staff. He is a member of Faith Protestant Reformed Church.
Young people, whom do you consider your closest friends? No doubt you have a certain group of individuals with whom you spend most of your free time. Throughout the day, you interact with them whenever possible, whether it be sitting by each other at lunch or texting during your breaks. During the weekends, you arrange to meet at your favorite restaurant, shopping center, or gym. For the most part, you can readily identify a group of people you consider your closest friends.
Now ask yourself why those people are your close friends. Perhaps they are relatives, and the time your families spend together has allowed you the opportunity to become close. Maybe you share common interests such as books or music. Others may be teammates and therefore you spend time together playing sports. All of these represent legitimate reasons for a friendship to grow and develop.
However, rather than focusing entirely on the external, let us examine the principles found in God’s word regarding friendship. The reason we must do this arises out of the principle that our friends tend to mold and shape who we become. When we spend large amounts of time with other people, we naturally adopt each other’s mannerisms so that we begin thinking, talking and acting like our friends. This phenomenon occurs subconsciously so that we don’t even realize that we begin using the same phrases as our friends and pursuing the same interests. Thus, let us explore the teachings of Scripture regarding who we should have as our friends, what our friends should do, and how to obtain such friends.
To discover the teachings of scripture regarding who we should have as our friends, we will begin by answering the opposite question: With whom should we avoid fostering friendships? The Bible clearly indicates that “the friendship of the world is enmity with God, whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (Jam. 4:4). The word “world” in this verse refers to those who are unbelievers. Thus, we must not seek our friends out of the ungodly, wicked people of the world, for if we do, we become the very enemy of God. Although many of our young people may not struggle with this command, the temptation to pursue friendships with the world is still very real.
Before continuing, we must point out James 4:4 does not teach that we may not have friends outside Protestant Reformed circles. Instead, this verse prohibits friendship with those who, by their ungodly and wicked walk, manifest that they stand in opposition to God and his teachings. So although no man can know the heart and judge whether a certain individual belongs to the elect or the reprobate, we can clearly observe whether an individual seeks to live in a God-glorifying manner. This truth is readily apparent in other passages of scripture regarding friendship. For example, God’s word teaches, “Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man thou shalt not go. Lest thou learn his ways and get a snare to thy soul” (Prov. 22:24–25). The text speaks very plainly regarding friendship with those who are outwardly wicked. Furthermore, it drives home the truth that we adopt the mannerisms of those whom we befriend in the phrase, “lest thou learn his ways.” For another example of this principle we turn to Proverbs 28:7, “Whoso keepeth the law is a wise son: but he that is a companion of riotous men shameth his father.” A riotous man refers to a troublemaker, or one who constantly breaks the rules set out before him. Thus, we have two examples that teach us to avoid friendships with those who are characterized by anger and rioting. This truth applies to all aspects of godly living.
Although we have used these passages to demonstrate more fully that we should not pursue friendships with those of the world, they serve as guidelines for those who are in the church. Sadly, not everyone within Reformed circles will make a good friend. Some, even in our own churches, are characterized by anger and fury due to a lack of self-control. Still others, although they attend the same Christian high school, constantly find ways to get themselves into trouble, even as the riotous man of Proverbs 28:7. Therefore, let someone’s conduct indicate whether he will make a godly friend.
Having answered the question of whom to avoid as our friends, we can readily discern whom we should have as our friends. We must confess with the psalmist, “I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts” (Psa. 119:63). We must find our friends among those who fear the Lord and keep his precepts! King Solomon in his wisdom wrote, “He that loveth pureness of heart, for the grace of his lips the king shall be his friend.” We must find our friends among those who have a pure heart! Again, although we cannot discern the heart of an individual, we can observe whether he or she seeks to glorify the Lord and walk according to his commandments. Scripture clearly teaches both negatively and positively that our friends should be fellow believers. This allows for true fellowship and communion between friends that is not possible when we are unequally yoked together with unbelievers (2 Cor. 6:14).
Since we have established where we should find our friends, we must now define the attributes of a godly friend. Scripture points out two key activities that should characterize our friends. First of all, friends love one another. “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Prov. 17:17). Importantly, a friend loves you at all times! Some may claim to be our friends during times of ease or prosperity. These individuals make great friends at recreational events such as ball games or trips to the beach. Most anyone can be a friend in such a setting. However, we must realize that a true friend not only shares in our recreational activities, but also stands by our side during times of adversity and affliction. To go one step farther, true friends express their love even if at times we make it very difficult for them to do so. As an example, during times of hardship we may be prone to behave in a very unpleasant manner. We fail to hear sound advice because we become so focused on ourselves. So try as they might, we will not hear our friends who are trying to assist us. Continuing in such behavior may cause our friends to separate themselves from us (Prov. 17:9). However, a godly friend persists in his love toward us, even when we become undeserving of it. God provides the ultimate example for showing such love to those who do not deserve it. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). God loved us despite our totally depraved nature and our inclination to every sin. Greater love has no man shown than this!
The second great activity of godly friends becomes evident from Proverbs 27:17, “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” Godly friends encourage each other spiritually. We can all mentally picture a knife being sharpened by repeatedly running the edge of the blade against a smooth stone. This process involves constant rubbing of the two objects against each other. So too godly friends refine one another as they spend time together discussing the various issues they face in life. They must encourage one another so as to stir up love and good works (Heb. 10:24). This spiritual sharpening will not always be pleasant, but rather may come in the form of an admonition. The process of sharpening a knife involves great friction between the two objects. So godly friends will seek each other’s edification when the one begins walking down the paths of sin. Young people, this calling to warn our friends when they are led astray requires tremendous love, wisdom, and humility. We find it much easier to keep our mouths shut than to begin a rather unpleasant conversation. We know from our own experience that no one likes to have his sins pointed out; nevertheless, godly friends overcome the desire to remain passive by speaking out. By counseling and encouraging each other spiritually, our friends help us stay on the straight and narrow path that leads to everlasting life (Matt. 7:14).
At this point you may agree with the description of a godly friend, but in the back of your head lingers an unanswered question: how do I obtain such godly friends? This question has great importance, for some of us may struggle with finding friends and becoming close to them. How do we find such friends as we just described? Once again we will turn to Scripture to find our answers. “A man that hath friends must show himself friendly, and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24). To have godly friends, we must be a godly friend. If you feel as though you lack close companions, then perhaps you aren’t showing yourself friendly. How do we show ourselves friendly? As we pointed out, scripture teaches we must love our friends and encourage them spiritually.
We often focus on what we can get out of a relationship, but we should instead focus our efforts on being a godly friend to those who are of the household of faith. This often involves great sacrifice on our part. That becomes evident when we analyze Proverbs 18:24 more closely. The word translated “friendly” in the text comes from the Hebrew word (H7489 in Strong’s Concordance) meaning to break or shatter into pieces. This word can also refer to something evil or displeasing, as it is usually translated. In fact, this verse represents the only instance in the KJV that translates this particular word as “friendly.” Both the English Standard Version and the New International Version translate the first phrase in this verse as “A man of many companions may come to ruin.” So why then do we find this translation? The translators of the KJV understood that a godly friend must be broken for others. Friendship requires tremendous self-sacrifice so that we seek the welfare of others, even though it may cause us hurt.
As a clear example, consider the work performed by Jesus Christ to make us his friends. He sacrificed himself on the cross of Calvary and bore all our sins by enduring the wrath of God, so that we may call him our friend-sovereign. Christ Jesus was broken into pieces for us. So too, we must express our love to others and encourage them spiritually by denying ourselves and serving our friends. In doing so, we will become a great blessing to our friends. Furthermore, in breaking ourselves for others, we become faithful followers of Christ Jesus. Thus, may we enjoy those who become closer than a brother and utilize such friends as an opportunity to glorify God.
This poem originally appeared in the December 1951 issue of Beacon Lights. Submitted by Nicole Schipper. Nicole is a member of Trinity Protestant Reformed Church in Hudsonville, Michigan.
Out of this life I’m unable to take
Things of silver and gold I make.
All that I cherish and hoard away,
As I leave, on this earth must stay.
All that I gather, and all that I keep,
I must leave behind when I fall asleep.
And I wonder often what I shall own
In that other life, when I pass alone.
What shall they find, and what shall they see
In the soul that answers the call for me?
Shall the Great Judge learn, when my task is through,
That my spirit has gathered some riches too?
Or shall at the last it be mine to find
That all that I’d worked for I’d left behind?
Once again the consequences of David’s sins in his early life come back upon him. As he comes to the end of his life and is so feeble that his body processes are failing, his son Adonijah makes plans to usurp the throne from Solomon. Only by the wisdom of Nathan the prophet, as ordained by God, was the throne given to its rightful heir, Solomon. When news reached Adonijah and his friends, he became frightened and fled to the temple for refuge. Only through Solomon’s allowance could he go home in peace. Here we see that Satan will war against the kingdom of Christ Jesus until the very end. May we pray for strength to overcome every wile of the evil one. Sing Psalter 198.
As David nears death he gives to his son Solomon some instructions about those around him. David knew that Solomon would not be able to withstand the treachery of Joab, Shimei, and others. After David died, Solomon found it necessary to follow his father’s instructions. Adonijah’s request was refused and he was put to death. Joab’s treachery was dealt with, as well as evil Shimei. Only Abithar was spared death, but the sentence pronounced upon Eli and his house was completed with his banishment from Jerusalem. God’s church must be purified from those who would do despite to it. Sing Psalter 124.
Like his father David, Solomon had a weakness. His weakness was beautiful women. He began his journey down this wicked path with his marriage to the Egyptian princess. The evils that came with his wives were their idols. Not only did Solomon sin by having more than one wife, but he also sinned by allowing idol worship into the kingdom of God. This incident shows to us that Solomon, like his father, was only a type of Christ, not the Christ himself. We also see in this chapter Solomon’s wise choice of wisdom to lead the church of Christ. May those who are entrusted with such leadership make this their prayer. Sing Psalter 308.
Solomon received not only the spiritual wisdom for which he asked, but he also received riches, honor, and an intellectual ability surpassed by no one. When you read the three books that he penned, you cannot help but be struck by his abilities. God gives to his church such men. May they use their abilities and gifts for the good of the gospel of Christ as we await the return of our Savior. Sing Psalter 223.
David had a friendship with Hiram king of Tyre. When Solomon ascended to the throne, this friendship bore fruit for the church. David had his dream of building a temple. God had told him that he was not the man for the job. That task fell to Solomon. It was time for Solomon to use his abilities for the building of the temple that would be the typical dwelling place for God. Today God dwells not in temples made by hands, neither is he worshiped in any one place in the world. Today we worship in spirit and in truth as Christ decreed. Sing Psalter 368.
As we read this account of the building of the temple, we should pay special attention to verse 7. This verse records the fact that there was little noise in the temple proper during its construction. A house of worship needs to be a house of peace. While we do not regard our church buildings as temples as did Israel during the time of typical worship, we still need to pay all honor and reverence due to our God as we use our houses of worship. We approach the thrice holy God in our churches, and we must worship in the beauty of holiness in those places. Sing Psalter 137.
Just as Moses was given a pattern for all instruments needed for the worship of Jehovah in the tabernacle, so Solomon was given the patterns needed for the temple. Neither he nor the craftsmen had any artistic license as they made the furniture and utensils used in worship. This was God’s house, and he alone decreed what was to be used in it. In our worship today, even though we are not given patterns for the physical parts of worship, we are to be guided by the regulative principle of worship in order to worship properly our covenant God. May we be guided by such things all the days of our lives. Sing Psalter 251.
Now it was time for the dedication of the temple. This was to be a time of great solemnity as well as great joy for the people of Israel. God’s people should be joyful when he establishes the visible manifestation of his church. They should be joyful that God sees fit to allow the organization of those congregations that make up the visible church on this earth. Solomon’s prayer is one that we should read and imitate even as we lead God’s people in prayer. Such prayers give to us the chief way to show thankfulness for the great salvation that we are given. Sing Psalter 367.
Once again God reminds Solomon of his spiritual duties as king of Israel. God had laid down spiritual guidelines for Israel’s kings before they entered the land of Canaan, and now he reiterates them to Solomon. These guidelines should be used in the church of God today and until Christ returns. The rest of the chapter continues to outline the grandeur of Solomon’s kingdom as it typifies the grandeur of the kingdom where we will dwell forever. Sing Psalter 198.
In this chapter we have the account of the unknown queen, the queen of Sheba. After she visits Jerusalem and takes in all that Solomon has, she leaves, never to be heard of until we read about her in the New Testament. Both Matthew and Luke speak of her rising up in judgement against the church of their day. May we live in accordance to God’s law in a way that is pleasing to God. May we use his church in a way that is pleasing to him and does not bring judgement down upon us. Sing Psalter 40.
The final chapter of Solomon’s life ends on a sad note. Notice how the first verse begins “But.” In contrast to all the spiritual beauty that is portrayed in the previous chapters, we find a spiritual ugliness in this one. We must not fall into the sin of Solomon as we consider marriage either for ourselves or for our children. Solomon was only a type, and so his life must end this way. But we must learn how to live in the church of God. Proper marriages will bring joy to homes and to the church. Marriage outside of the family of God will bring grief to homes and to the church. Sing Psalter 360.
God’s counsel did not decree an earthly kingdom in the Old Testament or in the New. Even today we must be careful not to fall prey to that kind of thinking. The kingdom for which we must wait is heavenly in nature. We also see in this chapter that God visited the inequities of Solomon upon his children. Rehoboam’s unwise choice was the instrument used to divide the kingdom and bring about the coming of Christ. May we ask for the grace to fall into neither the sin of Rehoboam nor the sin of Jeroboam. Sing Psalter 83.
The consequence of Jeroboam’s sin was a nation that became fraught with idolatry. The northern kingdom would be plagued by that sin and all the practices that went with it. Jeroboam is known as the “son of Nebat who made Israel to sin.” What an awful thing to be said about one who was entrusted with leadership. We also see in this chapter a certain characteristic of the prophets. God’s prophets were to be obedient to God in their work. A lack of obedience caused the death of the prophet in this chapter. Today, in the office of believer, we are called to be kings and prophets. May we carry out our calling properly as God has ordained. Sing Psalter 109.
As Israel goes more and more into the way of apostasy, we will find those whom God preserves in his love. In this chapter we find a son of wicked Jeroboam whom God called to be his own. Even in his death, he was a lesson to his father and mother. Did they learn from that lesson? The answer is obviously not. May we learn the lessons that God teaches us in this life, and may we live lives of obedience to our holy God. Sing Psalter 329.
As we trace the history of the various kings of Israel and Judah, we must not be too hasty to point our fingers at their sins. Their sins are our sins in our private as well as in our public lives. When we see a God-fearing man such as Asa fall, we shake our heads. But we must be careful. In the Canons of Dordt we are told about the “lamentable falls” of David and Peter. Then we are reminded of God’s grace that not only preserved those saints but will also preserve us as we walk in this world of sin. May we ever pray to him to “lead us not into temptation” and “to deliver us from evil.” Sing Psalter 140.
As Israel heads more and more into apostasy, we see their cup of iniquity filling quite rapidly. In this chapter we see several acts which show this fact. We see murder to gain the kingdom, and we see civil war among those and their supporters who desire the kingship. The chapter ends with the beginnings of most wicked Ahab. Here we see that a man, seeing his wickedness, ignores the commandment of the Lord concerning the building of Jericho. The curses pronounced upon Jericho’s builder are carried out. Do Israel and Ahab heed the warning God gives in this incident? The answer is no. Do we heed those warnings? Sing Psalter 96.
God sends a most striking prophet to Israel and Ahab. Elijah pronounces the word of the Lord and disappears. During the three years of drought and famine, God cares for his prophet both at the brook Cherith and in the country of Zidon. Elijah learns the power of prayer, as we read in James. Elijah is also a picture of John the Baptist, who preached the same message, that of repentance. Do we hear that message? Do we heed it? Ahab did not, and we know his sad end. Sing Psalter 1.
“Jehovah, he is the God” was the cry of the people after Elijah by grace won the contest on Mt. Carmel. For some it was truly a cry of victory. For others such as Ahab it was a forced confession that was no confession. Obadiah had showed faithfulness during Ahab’s reign. How he could do what he did is a mystery that will not be revealed to us until we go to glory. But Obadiah and the others of the 7000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal were rewarded by God’s goodness. May we be found faithful even when all around us walk in wickedness. May we be Obadiahs and not Ahabs. This can only be done by grace. Let us pray for that grace. Sing Psalter 308.
Elijah was only a human instrument for almighty God. Elijah shows that humanity as he flees the wrath of Jezebel and heads into the wilderness of Sinai. Even God’s care for him by an angel does not wake him up to see the way he was traveling. It takes God’s hand upon Mt. Sinai through the signs given there. Sometimes we are apt to be despondent about what we think is God’s slow way in the church and even in our lives. May we hear the voice of Jehovah and walk willingly and obediently in the way that he leads us. Sing Psalter 184.
Once again we see Ahab’s rebellion against God, even when God shows to him his power in the defeat of the Syrians. The apostate Ahab calls the wicked heathen Benhadad his brother, and even when he is rebuked by one of God’s prophets, he does not repent. Do we call wicked heathen our brothers and sisters? Do we refuse to hear the voice of the Lord as it is prophesied each Sunday from our pulpits? May we learn from these historical accounts thy way that we should walk in this world. Sing Psalter 253.
Once of the saddest things that might be said of us is that we sell our precious birthright. We have been given such a precious birthright by grace. What do we do with it? Are we like Naboth, who refused to sell it even in the face of death? Or are we like Ahab, who sold it over and over again to gain good things in this life. Our birthright, the word of God, must be precious unto us. We must guard it even unto death. If we take an easy path in this life, we will sell our birthright. If we esteem the world’s pleasures greater riches than the word, we sell our birthright. There are many ways in which this birthright can be sold. Let us do none of them. Sing Psalter 362.
In this chapter we see that Ahab does not learn his lesson and on the occasion of a war with Syria, the judgment of God is brought upon him. What a sad thing that he pronounces about Michaiah—that he hates him. In actuality it is not Michaiah that he hates, but Jehovah himself. When we despise those whom God has sent to preach to us and to lead us, we despise God himself. God’s ministers must be highly esteemed among us. If they are not, we become in danger of having our candlestick removed from among us. Let this chapter be a warning to us in our lives and in our walk. Sing Psalter 205.
How often do we not act like Ahaziah? How often do we live our lives as if there “is no God in Israel”? The answer is quite often. We make plans, judgments, and the like as if there is no sovereign God in heaven ruling over all. We do not go to him in prayer when we should, which is all of the time. We may use the means of doctors or other aids in this world, but we must always remember that all things are in God’s hand. We may not and must not act like Ahaziah did and impudently seek to inquire after the world’s help as if there is no God in heaven. Sing Psalter 260.
Here we find the interesting account of Elijah’s leaving this earth. He would be taken from the valley of the shadow of death by way of translation. He would no longer have to fight the battle of faith in the midst of apostate Israel. God would bring his faithful servant home. We see also the beginning of the work of Elisha. God would give to him the grace and the faith to do many miracles. These miracles would prove to those around him that this was truly a man of God. As we read about Elisha, let us see that this is for our profit, and that we must believe as surely as if those miracles had been done in front of us. Sing Psalter 33.
What an awful circumstance this chapter portrays! Here we see three kings united together for a cause. We have reprobate Edom, apostate Jehoram, and righteous Jehoshaphat linked together to fight Moab. Was there a just cause to fight Moab? There probably was. Should Jehoshaphat have been there? Absolutely not! In 2 Corinthians the church is admonished to not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. Jehoshaphat did just that. He should have packed up and gone home after Elisha’s reluctance to help. And then we see the wicked scene at the end of the chapter. Jehoshaphat should have learned about antithetical living; shouldn’t we? Sing Psalter 224.
In this chapter we see five miracles performed by Elisha. Miracles are signs in which the usual way of creation is changed to teach to God’s people a spiritual lesson. We must always see grace in miracles. God’s people are spiritually hungry, ill, and distressed. They are dead in their sins and trespasses. God by his grace feeds, heals, and raises us from our spiritual deaths. Let us look for the work of grace in our lives in all that God does for us. Sing Psalter 211.
Would our children be ready to confess their faith to a heathen when they are far from home? Would we have instructed them in such a way that they could be as this little girl and show her great faith to the master who had taken her from her home? Quite often we focus upon Naaman or Gehazi when we consider this chapter of Holy Scripture. We should take the time to see the faith of the little girl who let her light shine in a heathen place. Would we dare to show our faith? Sing Psalter 322.
The miracles of God as performed by Elisha, like the preaching of the word, had a two-fold effect. To the believing prophets of that time there was the demonstration of the work of grace in the people whose hearts were as heavy as that iron ax head. To the unbelieving kings of the northern kingdom and of Syria, there was the effect of continuing in unbelief. What is the effect of the preaching of the word upon us? Do we listen to it intently? Do we seek to learn more? Or do our hearts shut out that word and does it condemn us even as it condemned those of Israel and Syria? May God give to us the grace to embrace the preaching of the word each and every Lord’s Day. Sing Psalter 249.
When we listen to the word of God, do we show belief or unbelief? The king’s lord not only showed unbelief, but he was also callous toward the word of God and mocked the word of God’s prophet. When we hear the preaching of the word each Sunday, what is our attitude toward that preaching? Not only is preaching the chief means of grace to God’s people, but also it is the voice of Christ speaking to the church. When we disregard what is preached, we act like the king’s lord. Let us look unto God’s word, believe it, and speak well of it. Sing Psalter 325.
Here we have the work of God in two different parts of the church visible. First, God shows his care for the true believers as through the prophet God advised the widow to take steps to avoid the famine that he would send as part of his punishment to unbelieving Israel. Then he also cares for that widow by having Gehazi act as an intercessor for her to the king. Secondly, we see the approaching judgement upon Israel through Hazael the Syrian. God will not be mocked, people of God. He does bring judgement upon the church’s wrongdoings. Sing Psalter 300.
Ahab’s house will be destroyed for not only their great sins, but also for the troubles that they brought upon Israel. Their wickedness would be dealt with by the Lord’s strong arm. Not only would the ruling king be killed, but also all those who had a claim upon the throne. God would demonstrate his justice upon these evildoers. He would also destroy Jezebel, who was callous toward God even minutes before her death. Her unbelief was demonstrated unto all who saw her fall to her death. Her well-made up body would be eaten by the dogs as the fulfillment of God’s word to her by the prophet Elijah. How do we face death? Do we face it defiantly or in humble submission to God’s way? Sing Psalter 206.
Seminarian Joshua Engelsma has agreed to address the conventioneers on Monday evening of the 2012 convention. He will look at how God used David’s experience in caring for his father’s sheep to prepare him for his future work in fighting the Lord’s battles and leading God’s people Israel. Understanding why God prepared him in the way of caring for and defending his father’s sheep helps us better understand David’s future work and his authorship of Psalm 23, the theme of this year’s convention.
We hope to see you at Michindoh Conference Center in Hillsdale, Michigan from August 13-17!
Kylie is the Vice Secretary of the Federation Board and is a member of Faith Protestant Reformed Church in Jenison Michigan.
Every year at the Young People’s Convention, there is a meeting of the Delegate Board, which is made up of two delegates from each Young People’s society represented. One of the things the Delegate Board does at the Convention is vote for members of the Federation Board, which presides over the young people’s societies. This board meets once a month, requiring all members to be members of churches in West Michigan.
Because all of the members are from West Michigan, this brings about the unfortunate reality that some of the young people and their delegates from out-of-state churches are not familiar with the nominees. This article is meant to serve the purpose of introducing each of the Federation Board nominees to the out-of-state young people and even to those who are local but unfamiliar with the nominees.
The nominees for the office of Vice President are Dave Koole and Brian Feenstra. Dave is a member of Hope PRC in Walker and has a job as a farm worker. His goals for the Fed Board are to help the youth of our churches understand the seriousness of growing spiritually, seeing that they are the future of the church of Christ.
Brian Feenstra also attends Hope PRC in Walker. He is a full-time student and works as a blueberry farmer in his spare time. As the Vice President of Fed Board, he would like to serve the young people in the Protestant Reformed Churches and develop some familiarity with other members in the church.
Brian Key and Joe Holstege are the nominees for Vice Treasurer. Brian recently started a new job working full-time for a small landscape company in Holland called Top Cut Lawn Care Services. He is a member of Grandville PRC. His goals for Fed Board include trying to get more of our young people involved in published literature made available to our churches. There are so many sources of information and ways to learn more about God and his truths, yet many young people don’t seem to try to get themselves involved with these things or take advantage of these resources.
Joe is a full time student at Calvin College and attends Southeast PRC. His goals consist of the promotion of more activities that get the young people talking about spiritual things. With young people’s societies, mass meetings, conventions and the Beacon Lights, the Fed Board has been working toward this goal for years, but as the days grow darker and the kingdom of antichrist continues to grow stronger, we Christians need to shine ever brighter in our witness. Boldness as a Christian is strengthened by spiritual exercise, and so the more activities that get the young people talking, thinking, listening, and singing, the better.
The two nominees for Vice Secretary are Erika Schipper and Monica Koole. Erika attends Southwest PRC and works as a medical assistant for the Spectrum Health Medical Group. As vice secretary, she would like to have an opportunity to work with and for the young people as they grow in their spiritual life, encouraging them to continue in the walk of faith.
Monica works as a secretary for Kleyn Electric and attends Hope PRC in Walker. Her goals for the Fed Board include using this board in support of the young people of our churches for their spiritual benefit.
The nominees for spiritual advisor are Rev. Carl Haak and Rev. Bill Langerak. Rev. Haak is the pastor of Georgetown PRC. As spiritual advisor, he would encourage unity among the young people’s societies and a growth in love one for another and for God’s precious church.
Rev. Langerak is the minister of Southeast PRC. His goal for Fed Board is to help the Board with spiritual advice so they can carry out their calling to help promote the unity and spiritual growth of the young people to the honor and glory of God.
Jonathon Kamps and Dan VanUffelen make up the nominees for Youth Coordinator. Jonathon is a builder who attends Hope PRC in Walker. As Youth Coordinator, Jonathon would like to work for the unity of all of the societies in every aspect of what the Board does.
Dan VanUffelen is also a member of Hope PRC and is a high school English and church history teacher at Covenant Christian High School. His goal is that the Fed Board continues in a distinctively Protestant Reformed way.
To be Reformed is to have a high view of church membership; and not just membership for its own sake, but membership in the true, instituted church of Jesus Christ where the marks of the true church are clearly discerned. Lively, active church membership and diligent use of the means of grace are ideas that are interwoven into our three confessions, the Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession, and Canons of Dordrecht. In the light of our Three Forms of Unity, let’s take a look at the topic of Church Membership.
1. Why is church membership necessary? (Belgic Confession Art. 28; Heidelberg Catechism L.D. 21; Heb. 2:12)
2. To what church are we called to be members? (Belgic Confession Art. 29; Col. 1:23; Matt. 28:19; I Cor. 11:23; II Thess. 3:14, 15)
3. What means does God use within the church to work our salvation? (Belgic Confession Art. 29; Canons 3rd & 4th Head, Art. 17; Canons 3rd & 4th Head, Art. 6; Romans 1:16; Romans 10:13, 14; I Cor. 1:18, 24)
4. Is there salvation apart from membership in a true church and the use of the means of grace?
5. What are the dangers of not being diligent in using the means of grace? (Canons 3rd & 4th Head, Art. 17; Canons 5th Head, Art. 14)
6. May we ever separate ourselves from these means (that is, from the true church) either permanently, or for a period of time? (Heidelberg Catechism L.D. 38; Belgic Confession Art. 28; Canons 3rd & 4th Head, Art. 17) Discuss the following reasons for temporarily or permanently separating ourselves from a true church and the means of grace:
c. Voluntary military service
7. How does our view
of church membership shape all of the important decisions we make, or will
make, as young people and young adults? (Belgic Confession Art. 28; Church Order
Discuss how our high view of church membership must be a determining factor in whom we will date, where we receive our education, what job we chose, and where we will live.
8. What are the signs that a church is departing from the truth and losing the marks of the true church? (Belgic Confession Art. 29)
9. Is worshipping on our own or with a small group a viable alternative to the corporate worship of God on the Lord’s Day? (Heidelberg Catechism L.D. 21; L.D. 38; L.D. 48)
10. How can you, as the young people and future of the church, actively keep the Lord’s Day holy? How is your remembering of the Lord’s Day drastically different from that of the world and other churches? (Heidelberg Catechism L.D. 38)
11. All of you will soon face the question of making confession of your faith. There are three questions to which you will have to answer “yes.” They are:
a. Do you acknowledge the doctrine contained in the Old and New Testaments and in the Articles of the Christian faith and taught here in this Christian church to be the true and complete doctrine of salvation?
b. Have you resolved by the grace of God to adhere to this doctrine; to reject all heresies repugnant thereto; and to lead a new, godly life?
c. Will you submit to church government, and in case you should become delinquent (which may God graciously forbid), to church discipline?
Study the three questions and notice how all of them confront us with our weighty responsibilities of belonging to the true church where the three marks are found and where we will be nourished by the means of grace. Think of the seriousness of the vow you will be taking and the sin of breaking this vow.
12. Since we have already discussed the blessings of being an active member of the true church, let’s briefly consider the implications of leaving the true church. Discuss the following questions.
a. What are the implications of breaking our confession of faith vow? (Eccl. 5:4–6; Deut. 23:21)
b. What are the spiritual consequences of leaving the true church? (Gen. 13:12; I Kings 12:26–33 and I Kings 13:33, 34; Acts 7:39–43)
c. Is God’s blessing ever upon the decision to leave the truth for a church where the marks are not as purely found? (Prov. 23:23; Gal. 1:6–9; II Peter 2:20–22)
d. Can you give biblical examples of those who left the protection of the true church and God’s blessing was upon them and their generations?
The history of the church is filled with examples of wicked and riotous living. It is a cycle of sin, God’s judgment, Israel’s repentance, and God’s redemption. The same can be said of the New Testament church. From Revelation, in the letters to the seven churches, we learn of the different stages and ways of church apostasy, from churches that are pure and above reproof to dead orthodoxy, false doctrine, godless living, and everything in between. In our own churches we have fought several great doctrinal battles. The walls and ramparts are fairly strong on that front. Satan, however, does not limit himself to doctrinal battles. Satan knows that one of the easiest and best ways to destroy the church is through sin. Satan also knows that if he can get the youth of the church to eat of the forbidden fruit, it is that same youth that will soon be the parents and elders of the church. Sinful youths lead to sinful parents, sinful parents lead to a sinful church, a sinful church leads to an apostate church, and an apostate church leads to no church at all. Right now Satan is on the offensive. He is using his children to entice and tempt the children of God into the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. The battle is more intense than ever. From television, movies, video games, internet, cell phones, radio, billboards, magazines, and even our choice of clothing, iniquity bears down upon us.
But these are outside the sphere of the covenant. What about the sin within our midst? What about those in our schools, in our churches, and in our homes who lead godless lives? We hear about those who go to parties and get drunk nearly every weekend, even every day. How about those who are thought of as being pot-heads or druggies? What about those who are reported to be having sex or friends with benefits? Maybe those rumors of abortions are true. As the Preacher says, there is nothing new under the sun.
In Exodus 32, we read of the sin of the golden calf. Israel had just seen the ten plagues upon Egypt. They had passed through the Red Sea and watched Pharaoh and his hosts drown in the Red Sea. They had just been given the Ten Commandments on Mr. Horeb. Yet not more than 40 days later, they are running naked, committing fornication and worshiping a golden calf. When Moses came down from Mt. Horeb, he saw their sin. He asked a powerful question, “Who is on the Lord’s side?” It was the Levites who answered, “We are!” The Levites were zealous for the Lord, so Moses told them to go and slay those who were found to be sinning. We are told about 3000 men were slain that day. In our own life and wilderness wanderings, we are constantly confronted by our own sins, the sins of the world, and the sins of our brothers and sisters in Christ. God says to us, “Who is on the Lord’s side?” And then this command: “Let him come unto me.” Let us discuss how we answer the call today in the world, in our church, and in our own life.
1. How do we know who is not on the Lord’s side? (Exodus 32:7–10, 22; Matthew 12:33–37, John 14:15–24; Matthew 7:15–20)
2. If someone is not on the Lord’s side, then whose side are they on? (John 8:34–47; 1 Samuel 2:12,17)
3. When we hear or know of someone who is acting like they are not on the Lord’s side what must we do about it? How do we show we are on the Lord’s side? (Ezekiel 2:1–10; Ezekiel 3:4–11; Ezekiel 3:17–21; Jeremiah 1:4–10; Duet. 21:18–21; Deut. 13:6-11; Numbers 25:1–13; Matthew 18:15–18; I Corinthians 5:1–13; II Corinthians 6:14–7:1)
4. Why is it often so hard to call an erring brother or sister to repentance? (Matthew 7:1–5)
5. Is it really all that necessary to call someone to repentance? As long as I don’t sin, isn’t that good enough? Besides, they eventually will grow out of it, won’t they? They are just sowing a little wild oats after all. (Psalm 37:1, 2, 7–9; Joshua 7:11, 12; Numbers 15:22–26; Exodus 20:5, 6; Psalm 37:28; Luke 12:42–47; Numbers 15:27–36; HC Q&A 64)
6. Are there sins you see in your peers that are known by others but they are not being addressed properly?
7. How do we know there has been true repentance? (Form of Readmitting Excommunicated Persons)
8. May we seek to be friends with or have fun and fellowship with those who show they are unrepentant? Why or why not? (Genesis 13:11–13; James 4:4)
9. Why do we rebuke and separate from those who are walking in unrepentant sin? (Form for Excommunication)
10. What is the proper way of separation from someone in the sphere of the covenant who is showing themselves by unrepentant sin to be a son or daughter of the devil? (Matthew 18:15–18; Church Order Article 71–77)
11. The Levites had swords, but what weapons do we have to fight against those that act as sons of Belial in the sphere of the covenant?
12. What comfort does the soldier of God have when he answers the Lord’s call zealously and fights for truth, holiness and righteousness in the church and in his own life? (Numbers 25:10–13; Romans 8:31; 1 Kings 19:18)
Jonathan is a member of Southwest Protestant Reformed Church in Wyoming, Michigan.
The Bishops’ Bible, by the very fact of its existence as well as in the manner of its translations, testifies to the deep division within the Church of England in the time after the death of Bloody Mary and the beginning of the reign of Elizabeth I. It was a challenge to the popular supremacy gained by the Geneva Bible after its importation from the continent to England in 1560. Some who should know better would like to assure us that the Bishops’ Bible and the Geneva should not be seen as rivals to each other, but as two peacefully co-existing translations, each operating within its own sphere in the lives of church-going, Bible-reading English people of this time. “One should not see these two versions necessarily as rivals: people would expect to hear one [read aloud publicly] in church and use the other at home.” The former—the one read in church—refers to the Bishops’ Bible after its printing in 1568, the latter to the Geneva Bible.
In fact, rivals are exactly what they were. The Geneva Bible arose from a theological framework and an ecclesiastical attitude that Elizabeth I abhorred—and that is not too strong a word—and in which abhorrence she was joined by many of the bishops of the Anglican Church that she founded. The Geneva Bible was the Bible of those who wanted the English Reformation to proceed even farther than it had in the days of Edward VI under Archbishop Cranmer, that is, to become a Calvinistic institution in government as well as in doctrine. Due to the superior quality of its translation, its various pictorial and illustrative assistants to the text, and its marginal notes, it was extremely popular among the people. The Bishops’ Bible, in the designs of those who engineered and executed its production, would oppose this perceived radicalism from above as the Bible of the Anglican hierarchy who wished to maintain and walk the ‘middle way’ (Latin: via media) between the two light-and-dark extremes of Romanism and Calvinistic Protestantism.
The origins and idea of the Bishops’ Bible actually go back to the days of Henry VIII and Archbishop Cranmer. In 1542, five years before his death and in a period of increasing reaction against the Reformation, Henry had suggested to Cranmer that he and some of the other bishops revise the Great Bible—which was then the official church Bible—according to their liking. Cranmer approved of the idea and divided up the Bible text among himself and several bishops whom he chose to assist him. But the project floundered after several stormy meetings between those bishops who wanted as impenetrable an English translation as possible (because they did not want the people to read and understand) and those who favored a true revision in the tradition of Wycliffe and Tyndale. The project fell by the wayside, not to be revived for 20 years.
In 1562, after the turbulence left in the wake of Bloody Mary was somewhat becalmed by the strong hand of Elizabeth I, the project revived under Elizabeth’s hand-picked, “first and most tolerant” Archbishop of Canterbury, Matthew Parker. Parker, although thought to be secretly an admirer of the Geneva Bible, was alarmed at its unforeseen, massive popularity in England when it arrived from the Continent in 1560. Although not actually printed in England until the 1570s—Parker saw to that—the Geneva Bible was smuggled in and sold among the folk on a scale not seen since Tyndale’s New Testament in the 1520s and 30s. Cause for alarm was, first, that the Great Bible was shown to be at serious fault in several places by the superior translation of the Geneva Bible. The Great Bible had survived the reign of Bloody Mary more or less unscathed as the licensed Bible for reading in church; many churches still had their ponderous pulpit volumes. But the Geneva showed them to be inaccurate especially in the Old Testament, where Coverdale’s scant knowledge of Hebrew had forced him to rely more on the Latin and German. Second, Parker disparaged the Geneva Bible as invasive: it came from outside England. This clearly silly objection neatly overlooked the fact that Englishmen in exile had produced this “invasive” English Bible, as well as the fact that the licensed Great Bible had been first printed in Paris. But both of these reasons were a smoke-screen for the real reason that Parker, the Queen, and virtually the entire Anglican hierarchy opposed the Geneva Bible with its overtly Calvinistic marginal notes. The theology of these notes and of those who had chosen and written them was not the theology and character that Parker wanted for the Church of England. Another Bible “of more Anglican character” was needed. Taking his inspiration from 20 years earlier, Parker hoped to succeed where Cranmer had failed.
The method of translation of the Bishops’ Bible reveals much about the character and mind of Matthew Parker and the bishops who assisted him in the project. The first is a phobia of sparking any sort of controversy through offensive or sharp language. This meant no sharply Calvinistic marginal notes. According to a list of “Observations respected”—a set of rules for the bishops who were translating to follow—the bishops were not to “mar their margins with ‘bitter notes.’” This is not to say there were to be no marginal notes at all. Cross-references to other scriptural passages, as well as alternate readings for certain Hebrew and Greek words were copiously set down. Archbishop Parker was responsible for Genesis, Exodus, Matthew, Mark, all of Paul’s Epistles except 1 Corinthians, and the Epistle to the Hebrews. He took several of the non-controversial notes from the Geneva Bible, notes whose function was to explain the location of a certain place or the meaning of a name or some other informative function, and placed them in the margins of these books. Other bishops followed suit. But the bishops rejected any notes that gave a clear sound of Calvinism, which would not only give something to the Puritans in terms of doctrinal concession, but would also spark too great a blast from Rome.
In addition to eschewing “bitter notes,” the bishops were to take as much liberty as necessary to alter any words which for their “lightness or obscenity” might offend sensitive minds. It is difficult to see their being able to do this without then doing great injustice to the original languages. How is one to translate a passage such as Genesis 38, which is so full of “sensitive” material that one would hardly dare to include it in Holy Writ if it were not already there, so that nothing that might offend sensitive minds remains? As God would have it, it fell to Archbishop Parker to wrestle with this problem, responsible as he was for the Book of Genesis. How he went about solving it, in the privacy of his own study, is something he took to his grave.
Besides refusing all “bitter notes” and altering offensive words to make them palatable to all (with the result that they are palatable to none), the bishop-translators were to mark “unedifying” passages so that they could be passed over in the public reading of the Bible in church. What in God’s word is unedifying? The bishops could give only one definite answer: the genealogies—those long lists of names which trace the covenant line of God’s people from Adam to Christ. This is not a point to be lightly passed over. Note that these church leaders, scared senseless of giving any sort of offense to man, think it no great matter to take in hand to offend against God’s word and God himself in their appraisal of certain passages of Holy Scripture as “unedifying.” For if we, reader, will muzzle God’s word so that none are offended at our witnessing of that word, then though the whole world were at peace with us and our words praised by all as the most irenic to be heard—we may then be confident of the fearful reality that we have God against us. For God will have his word witnessed in all its parts. “All scripture,” writes the Apostle Paul to Timothy, “is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). The bishop-translators then and their spiritual descendants today are of a different mind.
These three great injunctions underpinned the whole thought and process of the bishops as they labored for over six years at their task. This condemned the end result to bland, pompous, and unedifying mediocrity, at best, and complete failure at worst. The translators ostensibly were to follow the text of the Great Bible as closely as possible, except where it differed from the truth of the original. But when it came to working with the original Hebrew and Greek, especially Hebrew, many of the bishops were patently inferior in the quality and vitality of their scholarship to the Geneva translators. To this end, they adopted strange translation tactics. Representative is the testimony of the Bishop of Rochester, E. Guest (his full first name would be disclosed if it could be discovered), responsible for the Psalms:
Where in the New Testament one piece of a Psalm is reported, I translate it in the Psalms according to the translation thereof in the New Testament, for the avoiding of the offence that may rise to the people upon divers [different] translations.
Whereupon one scholar comments sharply:
This, even to put it kindly, is folly. The ‘offence’ is imaginary. Moreover, did the bishop not know that quotations from the Psalms in the New Testament Psalms were not from the Hebrew but from the Septuagint Greek? In printing the Psalms, wrenching them away from the Hebrew—and only in certain places, which also happen to be especially significant—is a mad way to work. 
Some of the bishops responsible for Old Testament books did have in their several dioceses men who were competent in the Hebrew. In some cases, the work was given to these men, and the bishops took the credit. The Bishops of Norwich and Chichester, John Parkhurst and William Barlow, respectively, have special cause for shame. Apparently, they could, would, or did do nothing since the Apocrypha, for which they were responsible, in the first edition of the Bishops’ Bible is exactly that of the Great Bible, which had been translated by Miles Coverdale from the Latin Vulgate rather than from the Hebrew.
But the Bishops’ Bible did not escape entirely the influence of the Geneva Bible…the Geneva was just too good. As we noted, Archbishop Parker included some of its informative notes and alternate readings in the margins of his translations. Edwin Sandys, Bishop of Worcester, put extensive alternate readings from the Geneva Bible in his translations of Kings and Chronicles. Edmund Grindal, Bishop of London and responsible for the 12 Minor Prophets, did the same. The entire biblical text was divided into verses and chapters, as was Geneva’s. The absolutely massive first edition of the Bishops’ Bible contained tables of dates, calendars, and other illustrations in abundance: “124 distinct woodblock illustrations, and four maps, three of them taken from the 1560 Geneva Bible.”
However, the bishop-translators might have all been a bit more diligent to incorporate patently superior readings from the Geneva Bible into their work. Their own substitutes were pompous, verbose, even grotesque. The one example virtually every historian of the English Bible lifts up for especial humiliation, and with good reason, is Ecclesiastes 11:1a. Geneva has, which the Authorized Version borrowed, “Cast thy bread upon the waters.” The Bishops’ Bible disfigured this to, “Lay thy bread upon wet faces.” The unfortunate bishop who produced this clearly had in mind the idea of the surface of the water as its face, and that face of the water is certainly wet. But here the effect is gross. The Bishop of Rochester neglected Geneva’s beautiful opening to Psalm 23, again mostly taken into the AV, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to rest in green pasture, and leadeth me by the still waters.” He made it windy: “God is my shepherd, therefore can I lack nothing. He will cause me to repose myself in pasture full of grass, and he will lead me unto calm waters.” Clearly, Geneva’s were the better letter-men, both in Hebrew and in English.
With all these things against it, and besides the fact that everybody who cared to read the Bible in England, including Queen Elizabeth I, had already purchased a copy—or several—of the Geneva Bible, the handwriting was on the wall for the Bishops’ Bible ere it ever came to the press. In 1568 (Parker had parceled out the text for translation in 1562) it was published and presented to the Queen. To be sure, what met her eyes was a volume almost as massive as Archbishop Parker who carried it. It dwarfed the Great Bible of 1541. Its opulence was unprecedented, with carved ornamentation on the covers and binding, lavishly executed initial letters for each book and chapter, flattering portraits of Queen Elizabeth and her principal ministers of state, and other “eye-candy.” The volume displayed all the glamour episcopal Anglicanism could muster.
But all the glitz was a cover for the fact that the text itself was uniformly of a poor and even wretched quality. Not only was the translation bad, the whole text was also not uniform. No general conference of all the bishop-translators had been held after each had done his own individual work, in which they could compare notes and review each other’s work. Parker, who undeniably worked very hard at his bit and did a fair job of superintending the process, nevertheless did not go over the final text and seems in the end more interested in compensating the printer, Richard Jugge, for the massive job he had done. More importantly, Parker ensured that the 12-year extension he had previously authorized for the printing of the Geneva Bible did not go through, in order to give the new Bible a clear and lone shot at the playing field.
Small wonder it must be, then, that when Parker requested the Queen that the bishops’ new Bible might have her “gracious favor, license, and protection,” Elizabeth refused it. Some have suggested her political sensibilities prevented her from granting favor either to the Puritans or to the bishops. Others are of the opinion that the Queen, a scholar in her own right, recognized the brilliance of the Geneva translation and refused to give her stamp of approval to the lesser scholarship and ability on display in the Bishops’ Bible. Whatever the reason, her license was withheld, and the bishops had to promote their new Bible on their own. Every cathedral, church, and chapel, as well as every bishop’s residence, was ordered to purchase a copy and display it prominently for public reading.
In the end, the evidence against Archbishop Parker—evidence that should bury the protestations of those who know better that the Geneva and Bishops’ Bibles “should not be seen necessarily as rivals”—is condemning in the extreme.
To the very end of his life, Parker used his control…to prevent the Geneva version being printed in England…it seems certain that the Archbishop cared little for providing Bibles for private reading. He saw and met the need of suitable editions for the service of the church…but he did not trust the people with cheap editions of the Bible.
And the aim was “for political reasons, to oppose Geneva, even as it grew in force and influence, and eventually to kill it outright.” Clearly, the Bishops’ Bible was Geneva’s arch-rival. But it was not a worthy adversary. Another one, the last of the great English Bibles, was yet to come: the Authorized Version of 1611.
Connie is a member of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Although Scripture calls the Christian to spiritual warfare only, the physical, sword and firearm wars over religion and lands continued in France. The kingdom of Navarre, where Jeanne d’Albret ruled, remained safe from the battles for a time. As Navarre’s queen, she had helped the Huguenots and promoted the truths of the Reformed faith in her own lands and with her own money. She had proclaimed the land of Navarre to be a Protestant land. But she was increasingly hated by those who hated those Reformed truths. Even from Rome the Pope had taken notice of Jeanne and had called her a heretic. Yet, in the providence of God, Jeanne was protected from all these threats—for a time.
Another person much hated for helping and leading the Huguenots was Louis de Bourbon, also known as the Prince of Condé. Louis had helped Jeanne escape out of Paris several years ago, and now the Prince of Condé was in need of help himself. He had heard of a plot to have him arrested, so he and his family went to a city called La Rochelle for refuge. La Rochelle was not only a strong city, it was the most Protestant city in France, and therefore, it was the safest place for him to be in right now.
Jeanne was determined to help him. If the prince was in trouble, the whole of the Huguenot cause was in critical danger. But how could she help? She had a country to govern, and she could be arrested and captured outside of Navarre herself.
Jeanne set things in order in Navarre, putting trusted and capable men at the head of her government and military. Then she planned her trip to La Rochelle. After partaking in the Lord’s Supper one Sunday morning, she and her children quietly left for La Rochelle. Armed men of Navarre joined them along the way to help them on the journey. But the trip was not without detection. Again, she was pursued, and again, she and her hosts, nevertheless, came to their destination safely.
The town of La Rochelle was ready. News had spread there, too. The people cheered and the Prince of Condé rode out to meet them. It was a great encouragement to see the Queen of Navarre and her troops arrive!
But much work needed to be done. The times were, indeed, critical. Henry was now fifteen years old, and was growing into a fine young man. Because his father had been closest in line to the throne of France, so now was he. The Prince of Condé, his Uncle Louis, held the reins of the army out to him. But Jeanne intervened.
“No,” she said, “I and my son are here to promote the success of this great enterprise or to share its disaster. We will joyfully unite under the standard of Condé. The cause of God is dearer to me than my son.”
So Condé led the army, and Jeanne governed the town and worked in foreign affairs. She sent to Queen Elizabeth in England for help, which help that queen sent in gold and arms. Queen Elizabeth also welcomed many Huguenot refugees into England.
All was set for the defense of La Rochelle and the Huguenots there.
 Quoted from March 2012 issue of the Beacon Lights.
 Quoted from Acts of Synod 2009 p. 74, 75.
 Ibid, p. 76.
 Ibid, p. 79 Article 86, 5, d, 2)
 Manifold Greatness: The Making of the King James Bible, ed. Helen Moore and Julian Reid (Oxford, UK: Bodleian Library, 2011), 36.
 Bobrick, Wide as the Waters, 195.
 Bobrick, Wide as the Waters, 181.
 David Daniell, The Bible in English: Its History and Influence (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2003), 339–340.
 Ibid, 343.
 Bobrick, Wide as the Waters, 184.
 Quoted in Daniell, The Bible in English, 347.
 Quotation is from Ladies of the Reformation by J. H. Alexander, page 29.