This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma.
The Great Divine Intervention
Meditation on Ephesians 2: 4-6
But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love where-with he loved us, even we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
“But God…” These two words in and of themselves contain the whole gospel! They tell us what God has done in what was otherwise a hopeless and helpless situation. The word “but” looks back at the situation described in verses 1-3. What a deplorable, desperate, and heinous condition. “But God…” This is the intervention that makes all the difference. We are now united to Christ and enjoy a wonderful, powerful Christian life. Ours is not the hope that the world will get better; it will not! It is not the case that with more education people will progress in their lives. Nor can a change come because we are willing to change. “But God” is the subject for the whole sentence that began in verse 1, “And you who were dead in trespasses and sins.” What a wonderful and beautiful contrast is set forth before us by divine intervention!
The Author of this great work is God. There are so many wrong ideas about God. God is seen as a benevolent but nevertheless basically weak being who would like to help, but cannot unless we are willing. God, then, is limited by evil and controlled by circumstances. Others see God as powerful but rather distant and austere; He could help but does not care. Over against these false notions, God is sovereign. He is in control of His creation and also in the work of salvation. He has determined all things and has determined the destiny of all the angels as well of all humanity. God is holy, not indifferent to issues of right and wrong, justice or injustice, righteousness or sin. He is opposed to sin and will punish it with death. That is why our sinfulness is so frightful! It is terrible to fall into the hands of an angry God.
“But God” is the subject of the sentence and the predicate is found in verse 5 and 6: “hath quickened us…hath raised us up…and made us to sit in heavenly places.” Apart from God’s intervention, we were hopeless and helpless; “dead in trespasses and sins.” God by His Spirit quickened us in regeneration. God raised us up with Christ. This means that when God raised His Son from the dead, we were in Christ and were raised with Him to new life! Why? As we once were in Adam as our head and representative, God gave His Son to be our new head and representative. What is Christ’s is ours! As Christ ascended into heaven, so His church is also spiritually in heaven. That is where our citizenship is. This will be fully realized at our death. Our souls go up to heaven to rule with Christ. When Christ comes against, they bodily we will ascend up into the new heavens and new earth.
Why would God intervene like this for wretched sinners like you and me? What motivates God to do so? We are told in our text (vs.4) that it is God’s love. The first aspect of that love is His mercy. Mercy is God’s love to those who are in misery. We were in misery because we were dead in sin. God took pity on us and stooped to help us (like the good Samaritan who took pity on the man who was beaten and lying on the side of the road). Notice that God is rich in mercy. That means that He is so filled with mercy like an overflowing river, plenteous (Ps. 103:8). He is able, capable of pitying us although we were rebels and would have nothing of Him. He changes our state from being dead to being made alive in Christ.
God intervenes for us in “his great love where-with he loved us.” As God is rich in mercy, so is He also great in His love. He loved us so much from eternity. He loved us without limit. He loved us with His whole being. He loved us even though we were dead in trespasses. He loved us from everlasting. He loved us eternally. In His eternal counsel He loved us while He saw that we were sinners. Obviously, as is mentioned parenthetically, in His grace. I will not say much about that now, but wait until we get to verses 7-9.
God has quickened, raised us up to life, and makes us to sit in heavenly places all in Christ. How great is God’s love! It was manifested in the giving of His own Son to the death on the cross, so that we could have new life. It is in Christ alone that we have hope, help, and life eternal. We who were children of wrath, children of disobedience are made children of God, servants of the most-high God! How humbling this truth is. How thankful we must be. We look to and depend upon him for all things. We were dead but, praise God, He has made us alive in Christ Jesus! May we say with the songwriter, “Two wonders I confess: the wonder of His wondrous love, and my unworthiness.”
“Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.” (John Newton)
The Crete PRC Evangelism Committee (Crete, IL) is hosting the annual Reformation Day Lecture on October 30, at 7:00 p.m.
Prof. Brian Huizinga (PRC Seminary) will speak on:
“Of God, Through God, To God: Our Covenant Doctrine as Protestant Reformed Churches."
You are cordially invited to attend this important lecture and evening of celebrating the Reformation.
We look forward to seeing you there.
This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma.
Our Dark Past - What We Were
Meditation on Ephesians 2:1-3
And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
There really is no subject or predicate in these verses. The words, “hath he quickened” are supplied. The subject of this sentence is finally in verse 4, and the predicate in verse 5. We have in these three verses what the Ephesian Christians were and what all Christians were by nature: totally depraved. This is important to know and realize. How can we have a true conception and appreciation of the greatness of God’s power in salvation? The answer is that we measure it by the depth of sin from which we have been saved. The greatness of salvation is seen and understood only on the backdrop of the depth of sin and death that we were in by nature. We have here an example of how to tell the story with the greatest effect.
Your little boy runs in and says, “Our team won the game, even though key members were sick. It was a close game; the other team was ahead the whole game, etc. etc.” Or your little boy comes in and tells you of the disadvantages, difficulties, hardships, and only then when he had painted the bleak, bleak picture, he finally announces the startling fact, “But our team won!”
The Apostle Paul , by the Holy Spirit, instructs the Ephesian believers in the wonder and power of God in their salvation by painting the dread dark picture, “and you being dead by your trespasses and sins.” This spoke of the whole congregation in Ephesus. Each and every one of them had been dead. But not only they, but we also: all Christians who read this letter. This was all the churches in Asia Minor and is the church today!
We were “dead in trespasses and sins”. The word “trespasses” emphasizes that one has stepped over the boundaries of God’s law. The other term emphasizes that we have “missed the mark.” It is not that we almost made it, but we have missed it. There is not a lot of difference in the two terms, but both terms emphasize our actual sins. We were dead, as is evident from our trespasses and sins. Here we have the very heart, awfulness, and hopelessness of our state and condition, apart from the grace of God. Each and every one of us performed sinful acts, not in ignorance but willingly, knowingly, defiantly, and in rebellion against God.
Dead in sin does not mean that we were inactive. Sinful man is very active. It means that we were not only separated from God but also stand in opposition against God. Sin bears more sin. It is endless. This was true of Abel as well as Cain. It was true of each of us. The Apostle Paul put it this way, “I am carnal, sold under sin. I find in my flesh no good thing. Oh wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death” (Rom. 7:14-24)? Our death was revealed in that we walked and lived in these sins. This puts away any self-righteousness, pretended goodness and virtue, hypocrisy, and Phariseeism! Do you know this of yourself? This is not very flattering, is it?
The standard of our life and walk is found in the course of this evil world and the prince of this world. In other words, we were no different from all others who are sold under sin. It is so easy to speak of the fallen human race, but you and I are part of that human race by nature. Apart from the grace of God, we too would have developed in sin and rebellion. The ruler of this world is Satan, an opponent to God and a liar who always lies. Satan is a ruler or leader of a host of demons who live in the air. These demons all seek the same thing, namely, the downfall of the church. Satan and demons work in the sons of disobedience. It is not the case that man is basically good. Mankind is sinful, opposed to God. We had our walk among them. We lived like them. What a horrible walk! It is a death walk! Do you see yourself there? By nature, we are children of wrath. God’s wrath is expressed in punishment: death!
You ask how this is possibly true of Christians. The answer is that, by nature, Adam’s fall and disobedience were imputed to us. We were children of wrath. By our actual sins we give evidence of this. What an awful picture! We were “even as others” (vs.3), dead in trespasses and sins.
I cannot end this meditation on this hopeless condition. Paul goes from the past tense in these verses to the present tense. We were dead, once walked in sin, and were by nature children of wrath. “But God…hath quickened us together with Christ” (verses 4 and 5). This is the gospel! This truth of our depravity must humble us and make us extremely thankful that God did not leave us in our sins. In my next meditation, I plan to speak more about this phrase, “But God…”
This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma.
Knowing God's Power in the Exaltation of Christ
Meditation on Ephesians 1:19-23
And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all.
These verses in our pericope are the last part of a long sentence beginning in verse 15 and ending with verse 23. Paul prayed that the Ephesian believes might know God and the scope of what he does for us. Our faith is not a blind faith, but faith is a certain knowledge and a therefore a deep-rooted assurance. God wants us to know him, the hope of his calling, the riches of his inheritance, and the exceeding greatness of his power. May we know what is the exceeding greatness of his power!
What is that power of God? It is seen in the exaltation of Christ. Speaking of Jesus’ exaltation, Paul referred (1) to Christ’s resurrection from the dead, (2) to His ascension and enthronement over all , and (3) to His headship over the church His body. Since the church is Christ’s body, what is true of Christ is also true of His church! God’s power can be known in Christ and then also as it works in us. In the above verses, there are many different Greek words for power. First, we have the Greek word from which we get our English word “dynamite”. It means the power of strength in the sense of ability, ability to do something. Another Greek word means inner power, the inner energy of God. A third word for power is that which means the strength of authority. A fourth Greek word is simply strength, that is the power to do something. The apostle heaps word upon word and phrase upon phrase to express that power of God. The resurrection of Christ from the dead is a greater power of God than even that of creation!
There are some who believe that in knowing the truth they have it all. While sound theological and doctrinal knowledge is important, this knowledge is given to us that we know God better and thus live in His power and be victorious over sin in this life. The salvation of the soul is a resurrection, the recovery of a person from the dead. Without God’s mighty strength, not one individual would ever triumph over sin, live a godly life, or come at last to the reward God has for all His own in heaven.
God raised Jesus from the dead. What power on earth could possibly accomplish this miracle? Obviously, there is none. Only a heavenly power could and did raise Jesus on the third day. God thus vindicated Jesus’ claims to be the Messiah and declared that Christ’s atonement for sin was accepted. As God raised Jesus from the dead, so also by His Spirit He raises us from the dead with a birth from above. As Jesus Christ was victorious over Satan, sin, and death, all those who are united to Christ by faith can live triumphantly through that power!
What a sinful world we live in which tempts us to join in its wicked ways and persecuting those who refuse. How are we victorious over that great enemy? The answer is, we can only gain the victory through the power of God that transforms us “by the renewing of our minds” (Rom. 12:2). It is what makes us “new creatures” (II Cor. 5:17).
Our second great adversary is our own flesh, that sinful nature that you and I must fight against day and night. What an enemy it is! So often we are not active as we should be in reading God’s Word, praying, or performing good works. Our sinful nature also locks us into sinful patterns of behavior. How can we triumph over these strong forces? It is only by the power of God displayed in the resurrection of Christ from the dead.
Our third enemy is the devil and his host of fallen angels. No wonder Peter writes, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil ,as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he might devour: whom resist steadfast in the faith…” (I Pet. 5:8). Because of this, we need to be enlightened with respect to the power of God working in us. Nothing else can enable us to stand against the wiles of the devil.
In Christ’s exaltation, all things are placed under His feet! Christ’s exultation over all rule and authority involves all earthly powers and heavenly things. How are we to be victorious over Satan? James tells us: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). You and I cannot resist Satan in our own strength. If we submit ourselves to God, His power which was demonstrated in the exultation of Christ above all rule and authority now flows through us. The devil will flee as he fled from Christ at the conclusion of the temptation in the wilderness.
The exultation of Christ consists in God in His power giving Him to be “the head over all things to the church.” Christ is the organic and legal Head of the church. We are subject to Christ as the body is subject to the head. Christ and His church belong together. The church cannot be without Christ as the Head. This is absolutely impossible. Christ also cannot be without the church. Christ fills all things in the church. What a close relationship we have. We live, move and have our being in Christ Jesus raised from the dead! The power of God that raised Jesus from the dead is a power that is to us-ward who believe. You believe, don’t you?
Up from the grave he arose, with a mighty triumph o’er his foes. He arose a victor from the dark domain, and he lives forever with his saints to reign. He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!
Robert Lowry (1826-1899)
Rev. Martyn McGeown
38 Abbeyvale, Corbally, Co. Limerick, Ireland, V94 K7ER
Thursday, October 8, 2020
Dear saints in the Protestant Reformed Churches,
In my last newsletter (July 15) I reported on the CPRC Council’s decision (March 9) to withdraw me, the missionary, from the Limerick Reformed Fellowship, and my acceptance of the call to Providence PRC (April 4). I also mentioned how the COVID-19 restrictions have affected our activities, and I gave some indication of how long immigration might take before Larisa and I will be permitted to travel to the USA.
Larisa, being a U.S. citizen, was actually able to travel to the USA to attend her youngest brother’s wedding. Ben and Taylor (Griess) married on August 7 in Loveland, Colorado. Initially, Ben and Taylor had asked me to officiate their wedding, which I would have been honoured to do. Sadly, immigration issues made that impossible, so Larisa travelled to the USA alone. I was glad that she could go—she had missed two family funerals already in 2020—even though I had to stay at home without her. Her visit to the USA also gave her the opportunity to visit Providence PRC, meet the people of our future congregation, attend social events with friends, family, and future congregants, and see the parsonage that the saints in Providence PRC are preparing for us. Of course, travelling during the pandemic was not easy with mask wearing on the flight and self-isolation in Michigan and Limerick, but, thankfully, she and her family remained COVID-19 free.
The Fellowship is slowly—and painfully—disbanding. Of the three main families, the Wattersons, Kuhs, and Mansonas, only one remains. The Wattersons moved to Northern Ireland in March, as I reported last time, and are now members in the CPRC in Ballymena. The Kuhs plan to move to Northern Ireland next week, DV. October 4 was their last Sunday worshipping in the Fellowship. They will be greatly missed. Now there are only a handful of souls left. Yesterday (October 7) was also my last day teaching the Kuhs children—Sebastian and Penelope—catechism. As “thank you” gifts the children made cards depicting me as their pastor/catechism teacher: as you can see, they are very artistic. Their new pastor/catechism teacher will be Rev Stewart. He is getting some very good students, who by God’s grace have grown greatly in the knowledge of God’s Word.
The Irish government recently adopted a “Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19,” which outlines a five-level approach to the disease. Yesterday, the whole country entered “Level 3.” Under Level 3 we are advised to have no more than six people to our home from one other household, which makes our Bible study difficult (we usually have two visitors to our Bible study, but they are from two other households); worship services must move to online only, so that the Conradh na Gaelige is again closed to us (we will most likely be back to “bubble church” on Sunday, although we could have up to six people from one household join us); and we are only allowed to leave our county for essential purposes. An Garda Síochána (the Irish police) have checkpoints on all major roads to check that people are complying with the “no non-essential journeys” rule. Although, for now, they have no powers of enforcement (they can only advise against unnecessary journeys), the government is considering introducing fines for crossing county borders. There are 26 counties in Ireland and to travel from Limerick to Dublin, we must travel through five counties: Tipperary, Laois, Offaly, Kildare, and Dublin. To travel to Northern Ireland would require travelling through two additional counties, Meath and Louth, with potential checkpoints and questions at every border. Media speculation is that on October 27 when the Level 3 restrictions expire, Level 4 or even Level 5 restrictions could be introduced.
That brings me to immigration news. On August 24 the immigration lawyer whom we hired for the R-1 religious worker visa informed us of USCIS approval, which is very good news. However, the next step is an interview in the US Consulate. Initially, I was told to book an interview in London, which I tried to do: the next available appointment is August 13, 2021! Then I tried the US Consulate in Dublin, and I have an appointment scheduled for November 6, 2020! You can imagine the rollercoaster of emotions of late August, as joy gave way to disappointment, which gave way to relief.
Everything, therefore, depends on a successful outcome in November, which is just four weeks away. Pray, first, that the US Consulate remains open during the COVID-19 restrictions; and, second, that the Lord, in whose hands are the hearts of kings, moves the immigration officials to approve our petition. I can assure that I will be telling every police officer between here and Dublin that my journey to Dublin is absolutely essential! (Incidentally, the R-1 visa, if successful, would permit me to work as a religious worker for a maximum of five years. The other petition, immigration based on marriage to a US citizen, is a separate issue: there is no progress on that petition).
While my catechism instruction of the children of the Limerick Reformed Fellowship has ended, I have begun to teach two classes online for Providence PRC. Because of the time difference I teach only the Beginners and Juniors classes (finishing at 10 PM on Mondays for me). I am enjoying very much getting to know the first through fifth graders as we study New Testament History together, and I look forward, DV, to meeting the rest of the catechumens and the other members of Providence PRC in due course.
In Christian love,
Rev Martyn and Larisa McGeown