Missions of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America

This Week's PRC and Sister-Church News, October 20-26, 2019

Deuteronomy 6 5On this forty-second Lord's Day of 2019, October 20, the following news and information concerning PRC congregations, the Seminary, sister churches, and mission fields may be noted.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Every good thing we could think or desire is to be found in Jesus Christ alone. For He was sold to buy us back; captive to deliver us; condemned to absolve us. He was made a curse for our blessing, sin offering for our righteousness, marred that we may be made fair. He died for our life, so that by Him fury is made gentle, wrath appeased, darkness turned into light, fear reassured, despising despised, debt canceled, labor lightened, sadness made merry, misfortune made fortunate, difficulty easy, disorder ordered, division united, ignominy ennobled, rebellion subjected, intimidation intimidated, ambush uncovered, assaults assailed, force forced back, combat combated, war warred against, vengeance avenged, torment tormented, damnation damned, the abyss sunk into the abyss, hell transfixed, death dead, mortality made immortal. In short, mercy has swallowed up all misery, and goodness all misfortune ~ John Calvin

CONGREGATIONAL NEWS:

  • On October 13 Rev. R. Kleyn (Covenant of Grace PRC, Spokane, WA) declined the call from Immanuel PRC (Lacombe, AB).

  • On October 6 Grandville PRC voted to extend a call to Rev. J. Mahtani to serve as minister on loan to Covenant ERC in Singapore. We include him and his family in our prayers as he weighs this call.

  • Special notice for TONIGHT from First PRC-Grand Rapids, MI: Mexico City Presentation: Sunday evening, October 20, at First PRC (GR) there will be a presentation on the work that took place in the Mexico City area this past summer. The presentation will begin at 7:15 PM. All in the area are invited to attend.

  • Georgetown PRC is celebrating her 25th anniversary this year. This note is found in her bulletin about that upcoming celebration THIS WEEKEND AND NEXT SUNDAY: "Georgetown PR Church invites you to join their 25th Anniversary Celebration with two special services on Sunday, October 27 under the theme, "Thanking God for Our Treasured Heritage." Rev. VanOverloop will preach on Ps. 16:5-6 for the am service and Rev. Haak on verses 8-9 in our pm service. Photos, a powerpoint, and various other memorabilia will be displayed. Please join us in thanking God for His gracious care these past 25 years."

  • From the bulletin of the new daughter church of Byron Center PRC comes this significant notice: "At a [recent] council meeting, our mother church set the date for Unity PRC organizational service for Wednesday, October 30 at 7pm at BC PRC. After our organization, there will also be a congregational meeting at which elders and deacons for Unity PRC will be elected, the Lord willing."

luther reformation

Reformation Day / Fall Lectures planned by PRC congregations:

  • Kalamazoo PRC - October 25: "Many denominations, some even Reformed, are looking at going back to the Roman Catholic Church. Do you know the deepest common bond between them that gives them hope for union? Join us to hear Prof. Barry Gritters speak on: "Evangelicals and Catholics Together? Reconciling the Unreconcilable" on Friday, October 25, at 7:30 pm at Kalamazoo PRC, 4515 Green Acres Dr., Kalamazoo, MI. Refreshments will be served."
  • Crete PRC - October 31: "The world around us is becoming increasingly digital; we see many instances of this in society as well as in the church. Digital technology can be used wisely and productively; however, we often do not notice or stop to think about what effects it may be having on our spiritual life.   Join us for our fall lecture “Living Wisely in a Digital Age” to be given by Rev. Nate Decker on Thursday, Oct. 31 at Crete Protestant Reformed Church D.V.  Rev. Decker will address this topic from a distinct reformed viewpoint and have us consider wisdom in our use of digital media."
  • Covenant of Grace PRC (Spokane, WA) - November 1: "Reformation Day Lecture: Prof. R. Dykstra will be here on Friday, November 1, to give a lecture on the subject “Blessed Assurance: Reaffirmed by the Canons of Dort.”
  • Hull PRC (IA) - November 1: "On November 1 at 7:00 p.m. the Reformed Witness Committee is hosting a presentation by Prof. B. Gritters on this subject: "The Sabbath Command: The Law That Christians Love to Keep". This presentation will take place at Hull Protestant Reformed Church (1006 Hayes Ave, Hull, IA). Everyone is encouraged to attend. Bring a friend or family member with you. If you can’t be there in person, you can catch it on SermonAudio.com.
  • Pittsburgh PRC - November 1: "Our church is hosting our annual Reformation Day lecture on Friday, November 1st at 7 PM. Rev. Bruinsma will speak on the subject, "Ulrich Zwingli and the Restoration of Preaching." Mark your calendars and invite a friend."
  • Randolph PRC - November 1: "The Evangelism is preparing for a Reformation Day Presentation to be held at church on Friday, November 1, at 7:30 P.M. Rev. Guichelaar plans to speak on "The Reformation of 1834: A Return to Dordt." The Reformation of 1834 (known as the Afscheiding - the Secession) is where the PRC, the CRC, the URCNA, the CanRC, and the FRCNA all have their spiritual roots. Invite your friends, and those who might have an interest in this history, to the presentation."
  • Wingham (ON) PRC - November 8: "The Consistory is holding a Reformation Day Rally on Friday, November 8, beginning at 7:30 p.m. Prof. Ron Cammenga will be speaking on the topic, “What was the Reformation?”

DENOMINATIONAL NEWS:

Classis East: Classis East met on Sept.11 at Southwest PRC (Wyoming, MI). For the official public report of the Stated Clerk, visit this special news page about the work and decisions.

Classis West: Classis West met from Sept.25-27 at Calvary PRC in Hull, IA. It will reconvene on Tuesday November 5 to finish its work. For the full, official report of the stated clerk, visit this special news page on this meeting.

Contact Commitee:  Revs. C. Griess and C. Spronk along with their wives, and Pete Vander Schaaf and his wife, returned home safely this past Monday after visiting the BERG in Giessen, Germany from September 30 to October 14.

Front Oct 2019 1

PRC Seminary News:

  • The seminary is now entering its ninth week of the first semester in the new school year, and faculty, students, and staff stay busy with their respective tasks. It is also the time of year when our professors deliver special Reformation Day lectures (see the special Reformation lecture section above). Continue to pray for the seminary.

  • The schedule for the first semester has been posted on the seminary's website. If you are interested in visiting, please contact the seminary.

  • On Thursday and Friday, October 10 and 11, the PRTS hosted Dr. Nick Willborn, senior pastor of the Covenant Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Oak Ridge, Tennessee and adjunct professor of church history at Greenville Presbyterian Seminary in Taylors, SC. Dr. Willborn presented two speeches dealing with Southern Presbyterian theologians of the 19th century: "The Theological Distinctives of the 19th-Century Southern Presbyterians"  and "The Pastoral Qualities of the 19th-Century Presbyterians." Both presentations are now available on the seminary's YouTube channel.

  • Looking for some good Reformed books to read, Bible study materials or seminary publications to use? Come and visit the seminary's bookstore! We have a variety of Bibles, commentaries, and good books - used and new - for our members and friends. And you may also make use of our library - here's the link to our online catalog if you wish to search for something to read or use.

  • Need for Ministers: Synod 2019 took a decision to place the urgent need for seminary students before our churches. Please remember in your prayers to petition the Lord of the harvest for pastors, and please encourage young men, whom you observe to have the gifts, to consider the ministry.

  • The finishing touches are being put on the seminary addition and library renovation projects (new archives and offices). More decorating was completed in the library this week and more work continues on the archives room. The other custom library desks will be finished soon, along with the work area for the archives room. A special display case for archives was installed in the hallway this past week. Final inspection should be soon!
  • Be sure to visit the new PRC seminary website! Visit the site and check out the various pages, including the new blog - and sign up to receive seminary news by email!

CPRC News Header
One of the PRC "sisters" - Covenant PRC in Ballymena, N. Ireland

SISTER-CHURCH NEWS:

  • Concerning our sister church in Ballymena, N. Ireland, Covenant PRC, we may note the following:
    • Rev. A. Stewart led the services today.
    • The CPRC Reformation Day Lecture is planned for Friday, 25 October at 7:30 PM. Rev. Stewart will speak on “William Tyndale: English Bible Translator.”
    • Covenant PRC's latest newsletter was received and posted (August 2019).
    • A new issue of the Covenant Reformed News" is out! Read the September 2019 issue here.
  • Concerning our sister church in Singapore, Covenant ERC, we may note the following:
    • Rev. A. denHartog and his wife are once again serving the CERC while she is vacant.
    • Re the recent call of Grandville PRC: "As we wait patiently for God’s choosing of His servant to be sent to CERC as MOL, do continue to pray for Rev. Jonathan Mahtani as he considers the call. Let us pray earnestly that God will show him the way clearly. Though we are without an under shepherd for now, we must learn to be like the small creatures of God’s creation, always preparing, working together tirelessly and cooperatively, building on the strong foundation and be found to be doing the work which God has placed us in."
    • And about her church anniversary celebration we find this: "Session met this past Wednesday night and one of the many decisions was to confirm the new date of 17th Nov 2019 for the Church Anniversary celebration. Session has appointed two Elders to come out with a simplified version of the COF questions to interview our two very senior Chinese-speaking regular worshippers who are seeking to join our church."
    • Her latest newsletter (August 2019) - Reformed News Asia - was posted recently posted and may be found on this page.
  • Concerning the PRC in the Philippines, we may note the following from the bulletins of the Berean PRC, PRC in Bulacan, Maranatha PRC, and Provident CC:
    • Berean PRC: Rev. V. Ibe is leading the worship services today.
    • Maranatha PRC: Rev. L. Trinidad led her services today and taught the Canons of Dordt.
    • Provident CC: Rev. D. Holstege led her services today.
    • Denominational News:

The PRCP Classis will have their regular meeting on October 31, 2019 at 9:00 in the morning. D. V.

A new mission newsletter was published and distributed this week. You may find that October 2019 update here.

And for more on the life and work of our "sisters" in the Far East read the news under Philippine missions.

  • The PRC also has a "corresponding relationship" with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) of Australia. We remember these brothers and sisters in our prayers and labors also.

whatitmeansreformed
Looking for some good materials to read during this Reformation month? Visit our pamphlet section and our special Reformation article section.

SPECIAL NOTICES:

  • If you are in need of some pamphlets and/or articles published by the PRC for use in evangelism and/or witnessing, visit the PRCA Evangelism page for a complete list of materials available in digital format or by order from the publishing church.
  • Looking for a study Bible or Bible study resources this Fall? Visit the Reformed Book Outlet in downtown Hudsonville!

  • Do you have an interest in good Reformed literature and a solid Reformed and biblical magazine? Visit the Reformed Free Publishing Association's website (www.rfpa.org), where you will find information on books in all major Christian categories, as well as on the bi-monthly periodical, the Standard Bearer. If you missed the speech at the annual RFPA meeting this past week, visit this link to watch Rev. J. Smidstra's fine talk on "Training Our Children in the Discipline of Reading."

  • You can now listen to the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, and the Canons of Dordt on audio! Visit the links provided to hear the Catechism, the Confession, and the Canons. It's another excellent way to learn the Reformed faith and memorize these Reformed creeds.

RWH Logo 2019

  • Remember to listen to the Reformed Witness Hour each Sunday - on a radio station near you or on Sermonaudio wherever you are!
    • For October to January (2020) the RWH welcomes Rev. W. Bruinsma of our Pittsburgh PRC to the microphone. Today he delivers the message "Rebekah Marries Isaac" based on Genesis 24:55-67
      (or visit the RWH website linked here to listen anytime).
    • From the Reformed Witness Hour Committee:

      Did you read our latest newsletters - October 2019? Have you signed up yet to receive the emailed Reformed Witness Hour (RWH) newsletter? Six times per year, we update you on news about our speakers, program, and online reach, and we share stories from listeners and readers who have been blessed by the RWH, a ministry of the PRC. Please visit http://eepurl.com/gikNsL to sign up for the newsletter.

    • A new Spanish edition of the RWH has been produced and may be found on this YouTube channel (PRC Espanol). Why not check it out - and help spread the word!

 BL Poster Hope Page 1

ESPECIALLY FOR PRC Young People and Young Adults:

  • The 2019 PRYP's Convention is now history (held Aug.12-16 at Michindoh Conference Center in Hillsdale, MI). Southwest and Providence PRCs hosted this year's event. For pictures and more visit this YouTube channel or the Facebook page. The 2020 PRYP's Convention will be hosted by Georgetown PRC and held at Lake Williamson Christian Center (St. Louis, MO).
  • THE EVANGELICAL PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF AUSTRALIA would love to invite any young people and young adults, aged 13 and up, to their biennial youth camp. This youth camp will be held in Brisbane, Australia from the 28th of December 2019 – 3rd January 2020. Rev. Martyn McGeown from the Limerick Reformed Fellowship of the Republic of Ireland will be our guest speaker, taking the camp on the topic of ‘The Christian’s Armour’ (From Ephesians 6). Amongst other activities, the theme night will be on the “Australian Bush”. The cost for the camp is $250 AUD (approx $170 USD). This is a great time to meet other young people, fellowship with them and learn about our Saviour. Please contact Megan at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for the full flyer + registration form, or for any additional questions/information.

  • The latest young peoples' magazine of Covenant ERC in Singapore, Salt Shakers, was received and posted (August 2019 - cf. image above). Check that out on this page.

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PRC MISSION NEWS:

Domestic Labors:

  • Remember in prayer our home missionary, Rev. A. Spriensma, who continues to labor in the West Michigan area and beyond through Byron Center PRC, the calling church. In that connection, BC-PRC's bulletin today had this note: "Today Pastor Spriensma is preaching both services at Hope PRC (Walker) and giving a mission presentation tonight after the evening worship service."
  • Limerick Reformed Fellowship News:
    • Rev. M. McGeown is preaching today and will lead the Bible study Tuesday 8 PM in Corbally.
    • A fresh mission newsletter from the Limerick Reformed Fellowship is now available! The September 2019 edition may be found here.

Philippine Missions:

Let us continue in prayer to the Lord for the fulfillment of the needs of these busy pastors and missionaries in the Philippines. May the Lord of the harvest give them grace to be faithful and encouraged in all their labors.

India:

Myanmar:

  • Let us also remember Hope PRC's (Grand Rapids, MI) support of and involvement with Rev. Titus' work in Myanmar; for his latest report, visit this page.
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Philippines Mission Newsletter - October 2019

PRCA FOREIGN MISSIONS IN THE PHILIPPINES
OCTOBER 2019 NEWSLETTER


Rev. D. Holstege (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), Rev. D. Kleyn (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), Rev. R. Smit (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ in the Protestant Reformed Churches in America and our sister churches, warm greetings from us missionaries in the Philippines!

A New Theological School Begins

August 13, 2019 is now a significant date for the Protestant Reformed Churches in the Philippines because that was the first day of classes at their theological school.

On the Sunday prior to August 13, special sermons were preached in the four Protestant Reformed Churches (PRCP) to direct the attention of God’s people to this momentous occasion in the life of their churches.

  • Rev. Vernon Ibe preached at the Berean PRC on “Men Entrusted with the Gospel” (II Tim. 2:1-6).
  • Rev. D. Kleyn preached at the PRC in Bulacan on “Abounding in the Lord’s Work” (I Cor. 15:58).
  • Rev. R. Smit preached at the Maranatha PRC on “Jesus’ Fishermen” (Mk. 1:14-20).
  • Rev. D. Holstege preached at the Provident PRC on “Training Men for the Ministry” (II Tim. 2:2).

We missionaries of the PRCA, with the approval of the PRCP Classis, are giving the instruction at the seminary at this time. Rev. Holstege is teaching Hermeneutics (The principles of interpreting Holy Scripture). Rev. Kleyn is in charge of Homiletics (The principles and practice of making a sermon). He is also teaching Ancient Church History. Rev. Smit is teaching Greek Grammar (for exegesis of the New Testament). He is also teaching the first locus of Reformed Dogmatics (Theology), rightly called the “queen of the sciences.” These courses aim to give the PRCP students a firm theological foundation in the knowledge of God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent, which is life eternal.

There is one full-time student at the seminary for the 2019-2020 school year, Bro. Jeremiah Pascual (see picture). He and his wife are members of the PRC in Bulacan and are expecting their first child this November. Bro. Jethro Ace Flores served as a pastor for about eighteen years in another denomination. He attended some of the 7M classes of our missionaries in the past and became a member of Provident PRC with his wife and daughter just last July. His desire is to become a pastor in the PRCP and he is currently visiting a few classes at the seminary. Bro. Emmanuel Jasojaso is a school teacher who also plans to join Provident PRC with his wife and four little children. He too desires to become a pastor in the PRCP. With Bro. Jeremiah, he is studying Greek at seminary this year, with Classis’ approval. Besides these men, there are others who also plan, if the Lord wills, to begin studying at the seminary next year (2020-2021).

The classes are being taught this year in the sanctuary of Provident PRC in Marikina City, Metro Manila, a quiet and comfortable environment, which is conducive to teaching and learning. The classes meet in the mornings from Tuesday through Friday. For our devotions on the first day of class, we reflected together for a few moments on the mandate of the apostle to Timothy: “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (II Tim. 2:2).

PRCP Seminary opening day Aug 2019
Sitting from left to right: Bro. Emmanuel Jasojaso, Bro. Jeremiah Pascual, and Bro. Jethro Ace Flores

Other Developments on the Mission Field

On Sunday, August 25, I made the monthly visit to a congregation in the town of Guiguinto in the province of Bulacan: Bearers of Light Community Church (Pastor: Ronil Domingo). Deacon Jun Armas from Provident PRC accompanied me. This small congregation used to be a Brethren church, like Provident PRC. But now they too are reforming. They are the object of the evangelism work of Provident PRC (which is still the main focus of my labors). The office bearers of PPRC have begun to join me on these visits to assist and to oversee the work being done.

Bearers of light church AdultSS 2019

• [No benediction yet]
• Doxology (“Praise God from
whom all blessings flow…”)
• Psalter (#1)
• Ten Commandments
• Psalter (#53)
• Congregational prayer
• Psalter (#325)
• Scripture reading (Psalm 96)
• Sermon (Psalm 96:1-2)
• Prayer
• Offering
• Psalter (#257)
• Doxology (Psalter #196)

On August 25, as on prior visits, I first taught the Heidelberg Catechism (LD 7) in what they call the “adult Sunday school.” Later in the morning, at their request, I led them for the first time in a Reformed worship service, following the order of worship you see above, which is the order followed in the PRCP churches. We gave them some Psalters from which they sang a new song to Jehovah! After lunch, I began teaching them the Church Order of the PRC (photo above). The plan is to teach them the Church Order on each monthly visit. Pastor Ronil and his little flock have received all our instruction with eagerness; but sadly, some of their members have left because of the Reformed faith.

philippines map 1

Let me now turn your attention to Southern Negros Occidental (SNO), where our missionaries have been instructing a group of pastors for many years now. On Sunday, September 15, Rev. and Sharon Kleyn spent the day with the congregations of two of the pastors who normally attend the monthly classes: the Reformed Free Church in Inayauan (Pastor Ezekias Rosal) and the Reformed Church in Sialay, near Sipalay (Pastor Eduardo Donasco). The plan is to expand our work in Negros from teaching pastors to also preaching in their congregations and guiding them to organize properly as Reformed churches. We are very excited about this development because the SNO pastors are very enthusiastic and committed brethren who are eager for us to develop their churches. On September 15, Rev. Kleyn preached Lord’s Day 1 of the Heidelberg Catechism in the “adult Sunday school” of the Reformed Free Church in Inayauan (pictured below; the one standing on the right is Pastor Rosal). Then he led their worship service, preaching on Deuteronomy 7:6-8 which speaks of divine election. There were about 100 in attendance. Later that afternoon, he gave a speech on “God’s Sovereignty in Salvation” to the Reformed Church in Sialay. In both locations, they worshiped God together using the Psalter.

Reformed Free Church Negros Sept 2019

Besides these developments, the four congregations of the PRCP in the area of Metro Manila continue to grow, sometimes through the crucible of fiery trials, sometimes through joys which earth cannot afford. We missionaries all preach and teach in these churches, give advice to their councils, committees, and Classis, and engage in other work. The great commission is being fulfilled! We count it a high privilege to participate in the spread of the gospel of gracious salvation through Christ. Pray for the believers who desire to become Reformed churches. Pray for the seminary that is training men for the ministry of the gospel. We thank God constantly for your support of the work here.

In Christ’s service,
Rev. Daniel Holstege

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"Living Wisely in a Digital Age" - Crete PRC's Fall Lecture - October 31, 2019

The Evangelism Committee of Crete PRC (IL) will be hosting a lecture on October 31 titled “Living Wisely in a Digital Age,” to which the public is invited. Below are the details.

The world around us is becoming increasingly digital; we see many instances of this in society as well as in the church. Digital technology can be used wisely and productively; however, we often do not notice or stop to think about the effects it may be having on our spiritual life. Plan now to join us for our fall lecture “ Living Wisely in a Digital Age” to be given by Rev. Nate Dekker on Thursday, Oct. 31 at Crete Protestant Reformed Church D.V. Rev. Dekker will address this topic from a distinct reformed viewpoint and have us consider wisdom in our use of digital media.

Crete Fall 2019 lecture

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The Fountain of Life (1)

The Fountain of Life (1)

by Brian D. Dykstra, teacher at Hope PRCS in Walker, MI

“The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death” (Prov. 14:27).

“And the men of the city said unto Elisha, Behold, I pray thee, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord seeth: but the water is naught, and the ground barren. And he said, Bring me a new cruse, and put salt therein. And they brought it to him. And he went forth unto the spring of the waters, and cast the salt in there, and said, Thus saith the Lord, I have healed these waters; there shall not be from thence any more death or barren land. So the waters were healed unto this day, according to the saying of Elisha which he spake” (II Kings 2:19-22).

The verse in Proverbs speaks of a fountain, a good source of water. I quoted the verses from II Kings because they remind us of the importance of water to people. These men had found what would have been a pleasant place to live. Perhaps the location helped them to do their work and the fertile soil would allow them to grow some of their own food. However, they faced a big problem. No matter how many factors were favourable, they could not live there if the water was bad. The bad water made it impossible for them to grow food. The ground was barren, producing no fruit. They needed Elisha’s help. Elisha healed the waters, and the men had a fruitful place to live. People need water.

When people don’t drink enough water, they suffer dehydration. The brain will not function well, and our internal organs can not do their work to maintain health. During times of emergencies, some people have managed to live for quite a while without food as long as they had a good supply of water.

We also see the importance of a fountain of water for life when we read about communities where the water became polluted, contaminated. Contaminated water is a major problem for communities hit by hurricanes. Flood water picks up all kinds of dirty, unhealthy things and that water sneaks into the water supply. Bringing in good water is one of the first jobs to do when trying to help a hurricane-damaged community.

We have sometimes heard in the news about the effects of bad water. When lead is in the drinking water, people’s brains are damaged. Some people suffered a higher risk of cancer because a shoe making company dumped on the ground chemicals which were used to treat leather. Governments spend great amounts of money to provide clean water, and companies which pollute water are fined. Clean water is very important.

Those of you who like geography and studying maps might want to notice how many cities are found by sources of fresh water. We see that here in our own community. Grand Rapids is located on a bend in the Grand River. Muskegon, Grand Haven and Holland are all found where rivers empty into Lake Michigan. The availability of water also shaped our nation’s history. Much of our population is east of the Mississippi River where there are more rivers. The western part of the Great Plains does not have as many cities because there isn’t as much water readily available. Again, people need water.

Plants also need water in the right amount. When we have a hot summer and a few weeks of no rain, lawns are parched and brown. A brown lawn is not a big deal to us, but think of the farmer who needs a harvest so he can provide for the needs of a family. Some crops need plenty of water, and some need just a little. Farmers decide what crops to grow based upon how much rain their area usually receives.

Earthly water is so important to life, God uses it to teach us a spiritual lesson. Just as our bodies need water, our souls need spiritual water. Spiritual water is the Word of God. We must drink enough water so we don’t suffer dehydration, and we need spiritual water to avoid spiritual dehydration. How are we going to have a healthy knowledge of God, the way of salvation and the way of thankful living if we do not read the Bible or go to church? We must drink God’s Word.

The spiritual water we drink must be good, clean water. We do not drink polluted water because it does our bodies harm. When God’s word of grace is polluted with Arminianism, it does our souls harm. If we believe we must contribute some of our works, even in the smallest way, to our salvation, we steal glory from God. All the glory of salvation must go to Him. When we drink freely from a clean source of water, we enjoy a major benefit to our physical health. When we read God’s Word and hear the pure preaching of the gospel, our spiritual lives thrive and all glory is given to God.

When we read the Bible and hear good preaching, we learn that we are to fear the Lord. The fear of the Lord means we have great respect and reverent awe for God. God has been so gracious to us and given us so many blessings, we fear to offend Him. It is foolish to offend a person who has done so much for you, but it’s even worse to offend such a gracious God.

There is also a fear of the Lord which involves some fright. God is very strong. He can bring what we call evil into our lives. God is perfectly righteous. He is very angry with sin. Yes, Christ suffered the punishment for our sins and paid for all of them. However, God will make us suffer the consequences of our sins, not as a punishment or payment for our sins, but so we do not live a careless life of worldliness. God chastises us for our disobedience to bring us back to the way of His law.

We live in a very casual age. The fashion in which people dress gives evidence of this. Personal relationships and the manner we speak with friends is also very casual. This casual aspect of our society is also seen in that people do not worry about the results of their actions. Even our justice system gives sentences which are quite minimal, unless one is guilty of crimes which have attracted a great amount of public attention. Quite often, not much seems to happen to criminals. The world, then, believing that God is similar to themselves, also believes they can live in whatever way they please, and either God will not notice because He is far away, or that He will not punish them for their sins because God has changed. He is no longer the Old Testament God of vengeance. After all, He has not rained fire and brimstone on any cities for a long time. The claim today is that God is love, so now He loves everybody just the way they are. Actions are believed to have no consequences.  to be continued …

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This Week's PRC and Sister-Church News, October 13-19, 2019

Psalm95 1On this forty-first Lord's Day of 2019, October 13, the following news and information concerning PRC congregations, the Seminary, sister churches, and mission fields may be noted.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK:It is God's making Himself little which is the cause of our being made great. We are so little, that if God should manifest His greatness without condescension, we should be trampled under His feet; but God, who must stoop to view the skies, and bow to see what angels do, turns His eye yet lower, and looks to the lowly and contrite, and makes them great. … David ascribes all his own greatness to the condescending goodness of his Father in heaven. … How marvelous has been our experience of God's gentleness! How gentle have been His corrections! How gentle His forbearance! How gentle His teachings! How gentle His drawings! Meditate upon this theme, O believer. Let gratitude be awakened; let humility be deepened; let love be quickened ere thou fallest asleep tonight."  ~ Charles H. Spurgeon

CONGREGATIONAL NEWS:

  • Today Rev. R. Kleyn (Covenant of Grace PRC, Spokane, WA) declined the call from Immanuel PRC (Lacombe, AB).

  • Last Sunday Grandville PRC voted to extend a call to Rev. J. Mahtani to serve as minister on loan to Covenant ERC in Singapore. We include him and his family in our prayers as he weighs this call.

  • Our Canadian churches will be celebrating their national Thanksgiving Day tomorrow, October 14, with a special morning worship service. "Praise ye the LORD. O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever." Ps.106:1

  • Special notice from First PRC-Grand Rapids, MI: Mexico City Presentation: Sunday evening, October 20, at First PRC (GR) there will be a presentation on the work that took place in the Mexico City area this past summer. The presentation will begin at 7:15 PM. All in the area are invited to attend.

  • From the bulletin of the new daughter church of Byron Center PRC comes this significant notice: "At a [recent] council meeting, our mother church set the date for Unity PRC organizational service for Wednesday, October 30 at 7pm at BC PRC. After our organization, there will also be a congregational meeting at which elders and deacons for Unity PRC will be elected, the Lord willing."
  • Georgetown PRC is celebrating her 25th anniversary this year. This note is found in her bulletin about that upcoming celebration: "25th Anniversary and Church Picnic is planned for Saturday, October 26.  Join us for breakfast at Heritage Christian School! Our theme is, “Thanking God For Our Treasured Heritage”. The following Sunday, we will have special sermons by Rev. R. VanOverloop for our morning service and Rev. Haak for our evening service on Psalm 16: 5,6 and 8,9. Please plan to attend as we have so much to be thankful for!"

  • Pictures taken at the recent Seniors' Retreat in Gull Lake, MI (Sept. 2019) may be found in a pdf accessed by registered users on the PRC bulletin page. Thanks to Phil Harbach for providing these. 

luther reformation

Reformation Day / Fall Lectures planned by PRC congregations:

  • Kalamazoo PRC - October 25: "Many denominations, some even Reformed, are looking at going back to the Roman Catholic Church. Do you know the deepest common bond between them that gives them hope for union? Join us to hear Prof. Barry Gritters speak on: "Evangelicals and Catholics Together? Reconciling the Unreconcilable" on Friday, October 25, at 7:30 pm at Kalamazoo PRC, 4515 Green Acres Dr., Kalamazoo, MI. Refreshments will be served."
  • Crete PRC - October 31: "The world around us is becoming increasingly digital; we see many instances of this in society as well as in the church. Digital technology can be used wisely and productively; however, we often do not notice or stop to think about what effects it may be having on our spiritual life.   Join us for our fall lecture “Living Wisely in a Digital Age” to be given by Rev. Nate Decker on Thursday, Oct. 31 at Crete Protestant Reformed Church D.V.  Rev. Decker will address this topic from a distinct reformed viewpoint and have us consider wisdom in our use of digital media."
  • Covenant of Grace PRC (Spokane, WA) - November 1: "Reformation Day Lecture: Prof. R. Dykstra will be here on Friday, November 1, to give a lecture on the subject “Blessed Assurance: Reaffirmed by the Canons of Dort.”
  • Heritage PRC (Sioux Falls, SD) - Novemeber 1: "On November 1 at 7:00 p.m. the Reformed Witness Committee is hosting a presentation by Prof. B. Gritters on this subject: "The Sabbath Command: The Law That Christians Love to Keep". This presentation will take place at Hull Protestant Reformed Church (1006 Hayes Ave, Hull, IA). Everyone is encouraged to attend. Bring a friend or family member with you. If you can’t be there in person, you can catch it on SermonAudio.com.
  • Pittsburgh PRC - November 1: "Our church is hosting our annual Reformation Day lecture on Friday, November 1st at 7 PM. Rev. Bruinsma will speak on the subject, "Ulrich Zwingli and the Restoration of Preaching." Mark your calendars and invite a friend."

DENOMINATIONAL NEWS:

Classis East: Classis East met on Sept.11 at Southwest PRC (Wyoming, MI). For the official public report of the Stated Clerk, visit this special news page about the work and decisions.

Classis West: Classis West met from Sept.25-27 at Calvary PRC in Hull, IA. It will reconvene on Tuesday November 5 to finish its work. For the full, official report of the stated clerk, visit this special news page on this meeting.

Contact Commitee:  Revs. C. Griess and C. Spronk along with their wives, and Pete Vander Schaaf and his wife, are currently visiting the BERG in Giessen, Germany on behalf of the Contact Committee of our PRC.  They will be gone from September 30 to October 14 (tomorrow).

Sem sign Fall 2018 2

PRC Seminary News:

  • The seminary is now entering its eighth week of the first semester in the new school year, and both faculty and students remain busy with their tasks of teaching and studying. The students are taking mid-term exams in some of the classes. It is also the time of year when our professors deliver special Reformation Day lectures. Continue to pray for them.

  • The schedule for the first semester has been posted on the seminary's website. If you are interested in visiting, please contact the seminary.

  • Looking for some good Reformed books to read, Bible study materials or seminary publications to use? Come and visit the seminary's bookstore! We have a variety of Bibles, commentaries, and good books - used and new - for our members and friends. And you may also make use of our library - here's the link to our online catalog if you wish to search for something to read or use.

  • Need for Ministers: Synod 2019 took a decision to place the urgent need for seminary students before our churches. Nine of our 39 active ministers are 63 years of age and older. The next prospect for seminary graduates in our churches is not for another four years. Then those nine ministers will be 67 and older. Please remember in your prayers to petition the Lord of the harvest for pastors, and please encourage young men, whom you observe to have the gifts, to consider the ministry.

  • The finishing touches are being put on the seminary addition and library renovation projects (new archives and offices). More decorating is to be done in the library this week and more work continues on the archives room. The other custom library desks will be finished soon, along with the work area for the archives room. A special display case for archives was installed in the hallway this past week. Final inspection should be soon!
  • Be sure to visit the new PRC seminary website! Visit the site and check out the various pages, including the new blog - and sign up to receive seminary news by email!

ProvidentCC 2
Provident Christian Church, part of the PRC in the Philippines

SISTER-CHURCH NEWS:

  • Concerning our sister church in Singapore, Covenant ERC, we may note the following:
    • Rev. A. denHartog and his wife are once again serving the CERC while she is vacant.
    • Re the recent call of Grandville PRC: "Last Sunday, Grandville PRC congregation voted to extend the call to Rev Jonathan Mahtani to be the Minister-on-Loan to CERC. Rev Jonathan Mahtani is currently the pastor of Cornerstone PRC, Indiana. He has 3 weeks to consider this call and prayerfully seek God’s will. Do remember to keep Rev Mahtani in your prayers that God will make His will plain to him so that he will give an answer to this call with a clear conviction of his heart. Beloved, trust in our Sovereign God who rules and reigns all things, including our need for a pastor, for the glory of His name. Pray that God will give us patience to wait upon Him to send us the man of His choosing in His perfect timing to be our minister-on-loan."
    • Her latest newsletter (August 2019) - Reformed News Asia - was posted recently posted and may be found on this page.
  • Concerning the PRC in the Philippines, we may note the following from the bulletins of the Berean PRC, PRC in Bulacan, Maranatha PRC, and Provident CC:
    • Berean PRC: Rev. V.Ibe is leading the worship services today. He is also scheduled to preach at Kerusso Community Church at 3P.M. today
    • Maranatha PRC: Rev. R. Smit is leading her services today.
    • Provident CC: "Rev. Kleyn will preach for us in both worship services today, the Lord willing. Rev. Holstege is scheduled to preach once today in the PRC in Bulacan."
    • Denominational News:

      The Seminary of the PRCP will be having mid-term exams this week (Oct. 15-18).

      The PRCP Classis will have their regular meeting on October 31, 2019 at 9:00 in the morning. D. V.

    • And for more on the life and work of our "sisters" in the Far East read the news under Philippine missions (bulletins).
  • Concerning our sister church in Ballymena, N. Ireland, Covenant PRC, we may note the following:
    • Rev. A. Stewart is leading the services today.
    • The CPRC Reformation Day Lecture is planned for Friday, 25 October at 7:30 PM. Rev. Stewart will speak on “William Tyndale: English Bible Translator.”

    • Covenant PRC's latest newsletter was received and posted (August 2019).
    • A new issue of the Covenant Reformed News" is out! Read the September 2019 issue here.
  • The PRC also has a "corresponding relationship" with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) of Australia. We remember these brothers and sisters in our prayers and labors also.

the church today DJE
Looking for some good materials to read during this Reformation month? Visit our pamphlet section and our special Reformation article section.

SPECIAL NOTICES:

  • If you are in need of some pamphlets and/or articles published by the PRC for use in evangelism and/or witnessing, visit the PRCA Evangelism page for a complete list of materials available in digital format or by order from the publishing church.
  • Looking for a study Bible or Bible study resources this Fall? Visit the Reformed Book Outlet in downtown Hudsonville!

  • Do you have an interest in good Reformed literature and a solid Reformed and biblical magazine? Visit the Reformed Free Publishing Association's website (www.rfpa.org), where you will find information on books in all major Christian categories, as well as on the bi-monthly periodical, the Standard Bearer. If you missed the speech at the annual RFPA meeting this past week, visit this link to watch Rev. J. Smidstra's fine talk on "Training Our Children in the Discipline of Reading."

  • You can now listen to the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, and the Canons of Dordt on audio! Visit the links provided to hear the Catechism, the Confession, and the Canons. It's another excellent way to learn the Reformed faith and memorize these Reformed creeds.

RWH Logo 2019

  • Remember to listen to the Reformed Witness Hour each Sunday - on a radio station near you or on Sermonaudio wherever you are!
    • For October to January (2020) the RWH welcomes Rev. W. Bruinsma of our Pittsburgh PRC to the microphone. Today he delivers the message "The Faith of Sarah" based on Hebrews 11:11,12 (or visit the RWH website linked here to listen anytime).
    • From the Reformed Witness Hour Committee:

      Have you signed up yet to receive the emailed Reformed Witness Hour (RWH) newsletter? Six times per year, we update you on news about our speakers, program, and online reach, and we share stories from listeners and readers who have been blessed by the RWH, a ministry of the PRC. Please visit http://eepurl.com/gikNsL to sign up for the newsletter.

    • A new Spanish edition of the RWH has been produced and may be found on this YouTube channel (PRC Espanol). Why not check it out - and help spread the word!

 BL header lighthouse

ESPECIALLY FOR PRC Young People and Young Adults:

  • The 2019 PRYP's Convention is now history (held Aug.12-16 at Michindoh Conference Center in Hillsdale, MI). Southwest and Providence PRCs hosted this year's event. For pictures and more visit this YouTube channel or the Facebook page. The 2020 PRYP's Convention will be hosted by Georgetown PRC and held at Lake Williamson Christian Center (St. Louis, MO).
  • THE EVANGELICAL PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF AUSTRALIA would love to invite any young people and young adults, aged 13 and up, to their biennial youth camp. This youth camp will be held in Brisbane, Australia from the 28th of December 2019 – 3rd January 2020. Rev. Martyn McGeown from the Limerick Reformed Fellowship of the Republic of Ireland will be our guest speaker, taking the camp on the topic of ‘The Christian’s Armour’ (From Ephesians 6). Amongst other activities, the theme night will be on the “Australian Bush”. The cost for the camp is $250 AUD (approx $170 USD). This is a great time to meet other young people, fellowship with them and learn about our Saviour. Please contact Megan at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for the full flyer + registration form, or for any additional questions/information.

  • The latest young peoples' magazine of Covenant ERC in Singapore, Salt Shakers, was received and posted (August 2019 - cf. image above). Check that out on this page.

Gospel to all nations

PRC MISSION NEWS:

Domestic Labors:

  • Remember in prayer our home missionary, Rev. A. Spriensma, who continues to labor in the West Michigan area and beyond through Byron Center PRC, the calling church. In that connection, BC-PRC's bulletin today had this note: "The Dorr Bible Study meets this Thursday, October 17 at 7:30 PM. We plan to take up our discussion beginning at John 8:31. Please join us and bring friends or neighbors along to the library in Dorr!"
  • Limerick Reformed Fellowship News:
    • Rev. M. McGeown is preaching today and will lead the Bible study Tuesday 8 PM in Corbally.
    • S. Wales Lecture: Rev. McGeown spoke in Margam Community Centre this past Thursday, 10 October, on “The Development of God’s Covenant (7): Joseph and the Bondage in Egypt.” Remember this witness in your prayers.
    • A fresh mission newsletter from the Limerick Reformed Fellowship is now available! The September 2019 edition may be found here.

Philippine Missions:

Let us continue in prayer to the Lord for the fulfillment of the needs of these busy pastors and missionaries in the Philippines. May the Lord of the harvest give them grace to be faithful and encouraged in all their labors.

India:

Myanmar:

  • Let us also remember Hope PRC's (Grand Rapids, MI) support of and involvement with Rev. Titus' work in Myanmar; for his latest report, visit this page.
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Ulrich Zwingli: Swiss Reformer (2)

This article first appeared in the September 1, 1992 issue of the Standard Bearer and was written by Prof. H. Hanko (professor of church history in the PRC Seminary) for the rubric "Cloud of Witnesses."

(Note: In the last article, we began to discuss Zwingli's work as a reformer. We continur that discussion now.)

Zwingli the Reformer

The Reformation spread through Switzerland in a way different from the spread of the Reformation in any other land. Upon a petition from a reformer or a group of reformers, the ruling Council of a Swiss city would order a disputation to which the public was invited. Reformers and Roman Catholic theologians would carry on the disputation by debating a specific matter of reform. In every instance where a disputation was held, the Council in charge made the rule that the disputation had to be conducted on the basis of the Scriptures alone. This put the Roman Catholics at a decided disadvantage, for there were very few theologians of note who knew anything about the Scriptures, while the reformers had studied them intensely. Further, it is obvious to any one that those Romish practices against which the Reformers protested simply cannot be supported by Scripture in any way. 

The first disputation in Zurich ended in a complete victory for Zwingli and his fellow reformers, and the Council instructed Zwingli "to continue to preach the holy gospel as heretofore, and to proclaim the true, divine Scriptures." 

Just prior to the disputation, Zwingli had published 67 articles of faith. This document is an important historical document because it constitutes the earliest declaration of the Reformed faith. A few articles will indicate some of the basic beliefs of Zwingli.

All who say that the gospel is nothing without the approbation of the Church, err and cast reproach upon God. 

The sum of the gospel is that our Lord Jesus Christ, the true Son of God, has made known to us the will of his heavenly Father, and redeemed us by his innocence from eternal death, and reconciled us to God.
 

Therefore Christ is the only way to salvation to all who were, who are, who shall be.
 

Christ is the head of all believers who are his body; but without him the body is dead.
 

All who live in this Head are his members and children of God. And this is the Church, the communion of saints, the bride of Christ, the Ecclesia catholica.
 

Christ is our righteousness. From this it follows that our works are good so far as they are Christ's, but not good so far as they are our own.

These truths are now very familiar to us, but if one will only think of writing them in the context of 1000 years of papal error, it will give him a sense of how great a work of God was performed in the Reformation. 

With the Reformation firmly established in Zurich, it quickly spread to other parts of Switzerland. From Zurich it spread to Glarus, Schaffhausen, Appenzell, and the city of St. Gall. The spread continued when the leading canton of Bern adopted Reformation principles and proceeded to introduce them into the cantons of Vaud, Neuchstel and Geneva - where Calvin was later to do his great work. In every case the Reformation came by way of a leading reformer working closely with Zwingli, and by a Disputation ordered by the Council. Of interest are the ten theses or Conclusions adopted as a confession of faith in Bern. They read in part:

The holy Christian Church, whose only Head is Christ, is born of the Word of God, and abides in the same . . . . 

The Church of Christ makes no laws and commandments without the Word of God....
 

Christ is the only wisdom, righteousness, redemption, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world....
 

The mass as now in use, in which Christ is offered to God the Father for the sins of the living and the dead, is contrary to the Scripture. . . .
 

As Christ alone died for us, so he is also to be adored as the only Mediator and Advocate between God the Father and the believers.
 

Scripture knows nothing of purgatory....
 

The worship of images is contrary to Scripture.
 

All to the glory of God and his holy Word.

The high water mark of the Swiss Reformation was reached in 1530 when Zurich, Bern, Base1 and most of north and east Switzerland were Re- formed and no longer Roman Catholic. 

Two important events, in addition to his reformatory work, belong to this period in Zwingli's life. 

The first was the controversy with the Anabaptists. 

Anabaptism arose in Zurich during Zwingli's work there. It was a grievous threat to the well-being of the Reformation, for it was not only a doctrinal departure from the truth of Scripture, but it was, in some branches of the movement, a radical movement opposed to the authority of the magistrate and intent on setting up a kingdom of heaven upon earth.1 Zwingli and his followers were fiercely opposed to Anabaptism, as well they might be. But the secular magistracy, in cooperation with the Reformers, persecuted the Anabaptists severely, banishing them, imprisoning them, and in some instances, drowning them. Anabaptism continued to be a threat to the Reformation throughout the rest of the 16th century. 

As always, God uses the struggles and trials of the church for good. Though Anabaptism was a serious threat to the Reformation, it was the immediate occasion for the Swiss reformers to begin the development of covenant theology. In defense of the truth of infant baptism over against Anabaptism, the great truth of the covenant was set forth by Zwingli and later by other Swiss theologians. We who so deeply cherish the truth of the covenant do not look, in the first place, to Calvin as our spiritual father in this doctrine, but to Zwingli and the Swiss who worked with him. 

The other event of note was the Marburg Colloquy, held in the city of Marburg in 1529. Because of the threat of a united Roman Catholicism and the armies of Charles V, the Elector of Saxony and the Landgrave of Hesse wanted to unite all the Protestants in a common cause. To accomplish this, the differences between Lutheranism and the Swiss theologians had to be taken away. The Marburg Colloquy was called for this purpose. 

Luther, Melanchthon, and other German theologians were there. Zwingli and his colleagues in the Swiss reformation were there. Calvin did not come. It did not take very long to discover that the reformers from Germany and Switzerland were agreed on all matters except the doctrine of the presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper - the Lutherans maintaining their view of consubstantiation, and the Swiss maintaining their position. Luther was harsh and unyielding. A story has it that he wrote in the dust on the table in front of him: "This is my body," so that he would not forget his insistence that the real body and blood of Christ were present in the sacramental elements. 

When agreement proved impossible, the Swiss delegates wanted to extend the hand of fellowship to the German theologians, but were rebuffed with the cold and cutting remark of Luther: "Your spirit is different from ours." Even Zwingli's tearful expression of respect and love for Luther could gain little more from the unbending reformer than a brief expression of regret that he had sometimes spoken overly harshly. 

Unity among Protestants was impossible.

Zwingli's Death

It is not difficult to understand that the Roman Catholics were not about to see Switzerland become entirely Protestant without some kind of opposition.

This opposition began by severe persecution of Protestants in those cantons that remained Roman Catholic. One Protestant was even burned alive. To relieve their oppressed and martyred brethren, the Protestant cantons were prepared to go to war with the Roman Catholic countrymen, forgetting the words of Jesus Himself: "They that fight with the sword, perish with the sword." 

The story is quickly told. In 1529 the Roman Catholics were in no military shape to wage war and so sued for peace. Zwingli urged strongly against peace and gloomily predicted that if the Protestants did not take the opportunity to fight the Roman Catholics when victory was almost assured, they would eventually lose. He proved to be right. 

The Roman Catholics used the peace given to strengthen themselves and prepare for war. A blockade, imposed on the Roman Catholic provinces by the Protestants, and which caused much suffering and even starvation, goaded the Roman Catholics to go to war in 1531. In this battle the Protestants were decisively defeated, and Zwingli, who had insisted on going along with his troops as their chaplain, was killed. 

Zwingli was stooping to console a dying soldier when he was struck on the head with a stone. He managed to rise once more, but repeated blows and a thrust from a lance left him dying. Seeing his wounds, he cried out: "What matters this misfortune? They may kill the body, but they cannot kill the soul." For the rest of the day he lay under a pear tree, hands folded as in prayer and eyes fixed upon heaven. Towards evening a few stragglers of the victorious army asked him to confess his sins to a priest. He shook his head to indicate his refusal. But after a bit one of the men, in the light of his torch, recognized him and killed him with the sword, shouting, "Die, obstinate heretic!"2 

The soldiers, joyful at his death, quartered his body for treason, burned the pieces for heresy, mixed the ashes with the ashes of pigs, and scattered them to the four winds. 

So died one of God's faithful witnesses. 

The spread of the Reformation in Switzerland was halted.

Zwingli's Importance

Zwingli was, in some respects, an anomaly. On the one hand, he was a reformer faithful to the Scriptures. He insisted on the sole authority of Scripture before Luther raised his voice in Scripture's defense. He taught emphatically salvation in Christ alone and in His perfect sacrifice. He emphasized strongly the truth of sovereign and eternal predestination and preached it from the pulpit. He correctly and vigorously opposed all the Romish practices contrary to Scripture. He was instrumental in laying the foundation for the beginnings of covenant theology. 

But, on the other hand, he never quite shook free from his humanism. He held to the end his notion that heathen men of renown could be saved. He taught that all children in the world who die in infancy go to heaven. And he continued to his last breath to admire Erasmus, that humanistic enemy of the Reformation. 

And, in his opposition to Romish masses, he went to the opposite extreme and taught that the Lord's Supper is nothing but a memorial feast, and that Christ's presence in the bread and wine are not different from the presence of one we love whose photograph we cherish and by which photograph we remember our loved one, but who has, nevertheless, gone on to heaven.

Ulrich Zwingli's place in the Reformation was to prepare the way for a purification of the Reformation in Switzerland where Calvinism finally developed and flourished.


1. For more information on the Anabaptists, cf. the special Reformation Day issue of the Standard Bearer of October 15, 199l. 

2. See Schaff, History of the Christian Church for details.

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Ulrich Zwingli: Swiss Reformer (1)

Ulrich Zwingli

This article first appeared in the August 1, 1992 issue of the Standard Bearer and was written for the rubric "Cloud of Witnesses" by Prof. H. Hanko, professor of church history in the PRC Seminary.

Introductory note

We have come, in our discussion of important people in the history of the church, to the Reformation of the 16th century. If would be logical to begin with a couple of articles on Martin Luther and John Calvin. We have chosen not to do this, not only because both are well known to our readers, but also because many different and excellent biographies are available for reading. We intend, therefore, to write articles on lesser known men (and, perhaps, women) who were instrumental in bringing about the Reformation to which we are all the spiritual heirs.

Zwingli's Pre-conversion Life

In the midst of stunning Alpine beauty, in the Toggenburg Valley at Wildhaus, Ulrich Zwingli was born in a lowly shepherds cottage to the mayor of this small hamlet. He belonged to a large family - seven brothers (he was the third son) and two sisters. He was born seven weeks after Martin Luther, on January 1, 1484. 

Zwingli received his education in the leading universities of Switzerland and Austria, but was throughout under the influence of the humanism of the Renaissance. This is important, for Zwingli's humanism was to be an influence in his theology even after his conversion, and during the years of his reformatory work. The Renaissance was a movement which had begun in Italy a couple of centuries earlier and was characterized by a revival of learning, a return to the study of ancient Greek and Roman classics, and an exaltation of man. 

In Basel, Zwingli studied Latin grammar, music, and dialectics. In Bern he studied under Lupulus, the greatest classical scholar and poet in Switzerland and a leading humanist. In Vienna he studied scholastic philosophy, astronomy, physics, and the ancient classics. His education differed somewhat from that of Luther and was more nearly like the education which Calvin received; but all three reformers were highly educated men. One is reminded of how God often uses educated men in the church, for even Moses was "learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians." 

Returning to Basel, Zwingli studied and taught, acquiring his Master of Arts degree in 1506. Two events in Base1 helped to shape his future life: He was taught by Thomas Wyttenback, a man deeply interested in the reform of the church; and he met Leo Jud, who was to remain his friend and co-reformer for the rest of his life. Both of these men turned his thoughts to reform in the corrupt church of Rome. 

Zwingli early showed remarkable ability as a musician, and in the course of his studies he learned to play with skill the lute, harp, violin, flute, dulcimer, and hunting horn. He made good use of this ability throughout his career and wrote a number of beautiful poems and songs. 

In 1506 his work as minister began. He was ordained to the priesthood in Glaurus, but had to buy off a rival candidate for the sum of 100 guilders. 

Some interesting things happened while Zwingli was in Glaurus. For one thing, he immersed himself in the pastoral ministry, preaching, teaching, doing pastoral work and caring for the spiritual needs of his flock in so far as he was able, for he was yet an unconverted man. For another thing, he spent a great deal of time in personal study, reading avidly the old Greek and Roman authors. To read the Greek authors, he taught himself Greek and became proficient in this language. His admiration for classical writers grew with his reading, and he developed the idea that the Holy Spirit must have operated beyond the boundaries of Palestine among the heathen philosophers, for their writings could only be explained in terms of the work of the Holy Spirit. In this respect he anticipated later views of the general gracious operations of the Holy Spirit among the heathen, taught by the defenders of common grace. Because of his vast learning and ability, he supervised the education of two of his brothers and of several of the noblest young men of Glaurus, who became firm friends and remained such through his years of reformatory work. During this period he also made three trips with Swiss soldiers into Italy and came to hate the Swiss practice of mercenary soldiers.2 

In 1515 Zwingli moved to Einsiedeln, where he continued about three years. During his stay in Einsiedeln he gradually came to understand the evil of many Romish practices. Especially the corrupt practice of indulgences came to his attention when a huckster by the name of Samson tried to sell his indulgences in Switzerland. It is interesting that at least two years before Luther's attack against indulgences Zwingli was preaching against them and condemning them vehemently from the pulpit. In this respect, as well as in other matters, Zwingli anticipated Luther, taught the same things Luther taught, although he developed his ideas independently. 3 

It was also in Einsiedeln that Zwingli made the acquaintance of the famous humanist, Erasmus, who, at about this time, published his first edition of the Greek New Testament. Zwingli was deeply attracted to Erasmus, visited him, became his friend, and invited Erasmus to Zurich in 1522, which invitation Erasmus declined. It is to Zwingli's credit that, while he agreed with Erasmus in many points, he repudiated Erasmus' semi-Pelagianism. 

While Zwingli was in Glaurus and Einsiedeln, he fell into the sin of fornication. That this did not affect his standing in the church is only evidence of how common the practice was; but Zwingli later repented of it with great anguish of soul and lived with the burden of it all his life. 

Zwingli never did free himself of his humanistic views, views which continued to influence his theology even when he became the reformer of Switzerland. All his studies had been from a humanistic viewpoint; he had read widely in classical literature; and his admiration for Erasmus all but guaranteed that humanism would play an important role in his thinking.

Zwingli the Reformer

Zwingli's conversion was probably a gradual one which began while in Einsiedeln, but which came to full expression in Zurich, to which he was called in the latter part of 1518. There were several elements which played a role in his conversion. Increasingly, as he saw the need for reform in the church, he came to hate the Romish abuses which destroyed men's souls. As his studies turned more and more to Scripture, he, even before Luther, saw that Scripture alone had to be the authority for all the faith and life of the church. In fact, when he began his ministry in Zurich on January 1, 1519, on his 35th birthday, he began a systematic exposition of the Gospel according to Matthew. During the next four years of his ministry, he continued preaching systematically through the New Testament, going from Matthew to Acts, then to the Pauline and Catholic epistles, and then on to the other books, with the exception of Revelation. During the week he preached from the Psalms. 

In 1520 the plague struck Zurich, carrying off 2,500 people, about 1/3 of the populace. Zwingli was untiring in ministering to the needs of his flock, until the plague struck him down. From it he almost died, and by it God made him a new man. A poem he wrote at the beginning of his illness aptly depicts his faith.

Help me, O Lord, 

My strength and rock;
 

Lo, at the door
 

I hear death's knock.
 



Uplift thine arm,
 

Once pierced for me,
 

That conquered death,
 

And set me free.
 



Yet, if thy voice
 

In life's mid-day,
 

Recalls my soul,
 

Then I obey.



In faith and hope
 

Earth I resign,
 

Secure in heaven,
 

For I am Thine.

It was after his recovery that reform began in earnest. Once having become persuaded that Scripture was to be the only norm and standard of our life and faith, and of the life and faith of the church, reforms followed of themselves. But in Switzerland, reforms took place in a unique way. The pattern was: The reformers petitioned the magistracy to implement certain reforms; the magistracy called a public meeting or disputation to which were invited Roman Catholic theologians and reformers; both were required to defend their position on the matter at issue before the magistracy 4, which would then decide whether there forms were to be implemented. In these disputations it was common for the Council to rule that the debate had to be conducted on the basis of Scripture alone. 

The first disputation was held on January 29, 1523 before a public audience of over 600 people. As would almost always be the case in future disputations, it was also true in Zurich that the reformers easily won their point, partly because their position was the only one grounded on Scripture, but partly too because the Romish Church had no significant and knowledgeable theologians who could hold their own in open debate with the reformers. 

Victory followed upon victory, not only in Zurich, but also in other cantons of Switzerland where disputations were held. Lent was abandoned; clerical celibacy was declared unbiblical; the Bible was translated into the vernacular; images, pictures, and relics were removed from the churches; the churches were severed from the control of the papacy; the monasteries were dissolved; fasting was prohibited; the mass was replaced; the Lord's Supper was held at regular intervals5; discipline was established under the control of office bearers in the churches; biblical preaching was ordered in all the churches. 

Zwingli himself married. Because of the times, he married secretly. For two years only his friends knew of his marriage. In April, 1524 he married publicly. His wife was Anna Reinhart, a widow with three children. From this marriage, four more children were added to the family. It is clear from Zwingli's letters that his home life was a happy one and that his wife was a faithful help to him in his years of work in the church. 

- to be continued.


1. He later attempted to teach himself Hebrew, and, while he succeeded in a measure, he never became as skilled in Hebrew as in Greek. 

2. It was common in Switzerland for the men to hire themselves out to foreign armies. It is this practice which Zwingli came to hate, for the effects were spiritually demoralizing. The practice later became an issue in the struggles with Roman Catholicism, for the Roman Church supported the practice because of the vast revenues it brought into Switzerland, revenues some estimate as over $3,000,000.00 a year. From this practice dates the papal custom of having Swiss guards in the Vatican.
 

3. When Luther's writings later came to Zwingli's attention, Zwingli was impressed and encouraged because he had been teaching the same truths. A couple of examples are Luther's emphasis on the sole authority of Scripture, and the truth of sovereign predestination.
 

4. Which magistracy was generally a council of men. In the case of the first disputation in Zurich, the magistracy was the Little Council and the Large Council.
 

5. Four times a year, as we do today.

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